Wisdom From An Ancestor

My great grandmother had a saying; “You will never be truly happy until you think more about others than you do yourself” – Ura McGurran. When you make choices in life, do you consider how they affect others? Maybe too much. Maybe so much that you are living your life for others and not taking care of yourself. So how do you strike a healthy balance? There is so much emphasis today on self care and putting ourself first. How can my great grandmother’s words still be relevant now? Let’s take a look at some self care activities and selfless acts and see where the common ground lies.

Do you feel guilty when you participate in self care activities? There is no real reason to feel guilty for caring for yourself. Do your self care activities hurt anyone? One really wonderful thing about self care, is that by doing it, you set a good example for others. A recent conversation I had with a friend, was about her feeling conflicted because something she needed to do for herself, was being viewed as selfish by her daughter. I encouraged her to go ahead and do it anyhow because, by doing so, she was setting an example for her daughter about taking care of herself and following her dreams. Her actions didn’t hurt anyone. In fact her actions help recharge her to further help others. Even when we take care of ourselves we can still be thinking of others and the example we are setting.

Selfless acts can also be a form of self care. My husband helps a friend rake his leaves, every year. He has never been asked to do this. There is no expectation that he does it. He just does it because he cares about his friend. The really good feeling he gets in his heart from helping out his buddy is a form of self care also. Selfless acts can also be a form of self care. Does this idea surprise you? It is possible to think more about others and still find happiness and balance in your life.

When we think about people who have inspired us as a world, we see that their acts brought them both happiness and purpose. People like Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama; show us how caring for others is also caring for ourselves. I assure you, that new outfit will help you feel great, but there is no greater joy than helping another and seeing the true appreciation in their eyes. When we help others do something they could not have done for themselves, a ripple goes out into the world. The movie “Pay It Forward” taught us this. It entertained us while sending a message that “random acts of kindness” are a form of self care. They help us feel good and shift the energy of the world higher.

By thinking more of others than we do ourselves, as my great grandmother so wisely shared with her children generations ago, we are also taking care of ourselves. By lending a hand to those in need, we can find happiness, change the world, and set an example for future generations.

Yes, please care for yourself. Treat yourself to quiet walk in a pretty place or take a nap when you are tired. But remember, true happiness can also come from helping others.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you. May your life be filled with true happiness, as if by magic!

 

 

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Who Inspires You?

I was with a friend yesterday and she was talking about something her dad used to say. “A friend or a partner should make you a better person” ~ Don Ortmann. That struck me as some very wise advise. Do the people you surround yourself with make you a better person? Do you help your friends and lovers be better people?

We all touch other’s lives. Although no one can make us behave a certain way, we all have those friends who challenge us to be a better version of ourselves. These magical people inspire us, not by telling us how to be, but by just talking the talk and walking the walk. My husband is one such person. His kind and generous soul inspires me to be the best person that I can be. He never criticizes my behavior or says I need to step it up. He inspires me just by being himself. I am also blessed with other friends who, simply by living their lives, have inspired me to be and do better.

My elementary school had a secretary who had reinvented herself with the name, Henrietta Peach. She was a peach! This was back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. She would make copies for the teachers to use as worksheets in the classrooms. The “Ditto Machine” had a round drum where the original was placed. As the drum circled it would copy the content of the original, in purple, onto the waiting papers. As the drum circled it made a rhythmic “chuchunk, chuchunk” noise. Henrietta Peace would do deep knee bends to this, saying she was “exercising”. This woman would not have said she was a role model. She was just living her life and having fun at work. She played the organ in the balcony of the church. She climbed those stairs, often multiple times in one day, even into her 80’s when cancer was sucking the life out of her. She was an inspiration to others. She would sing out loud in the school office and even had a song just for me. Sometimes at the end of mass I would hear that song being played on the big church organ. A little secret sign between the two of us. When I left that school at the end of the 6th grade, I named her as the person I looked up to. I am sure I was not alone. Ethel Mohn aka Henrietta Peach, was an inspiration. Knowing her made me a better person. She taught me to have fun at work. She taught me to share my talents with others. She showed me how making a difference in the life of a child leaves a mark on this world that grows and grows. I am a better person for having known her.

Think about the people in your life. Who are the ones whose actions pull you up to better yourself? Do you think you do this for others in your life? I am sure in many ways you do. Perhaps you would be surprised to realize how your actions inspire those around you. Whether you realize it or not, people are looking to you to inspire them.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May you inspire others to be the best version of themselves, as if by magic.

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12 Tips to Help Decrease Holiday Stress

It’s holiday time. Do you love this season or does it cause you stress? Are you worried about where all the money will come from to buy everyone that perfect gift? Are you worried about people not liking your gifts? I love the general good cheer in the air but with a renewed focus on our financial goals, the holidays can be a potential step backwards. Here are some tips to help you live within your means, enjoy the holidays, reduce your stress, and still show others you care.

Set realistic expectations for yourself – No one can be it all, do it all or attend it all. Be realistic with yourself, your time, your energy, and your money. Do not sign up for more than you can take on. In the past, I felt I had to be the best entertainer, prepare the yummiest meals, decorate until not a corner of the house was untouched, give the perfect gifts and attend all the events. Age and wisdom have taught me that is not only unrealistic but also unhealthy. Be gentle with yourself.

Make a budget– I love giving as much as the next person but buying someone a more expensive gift does not change how much I love them. Decide on a reasonable dollar amount to spend and stick to it.

Start saving now for next year– put a small amount into a Holiday savings account each payday so when the next Holiday season rolls around you will not have to go into debt to buy gifts.

Talk to people about gift giving– for years my brother and I would exchange gift cards in the mail. We finally spoke and decided to each get ourselves something from the other, rather than shifting money back and forth in the mail. Buying a gift for you may be causing stress for another, so by having a conversation, you may alleviate their stress and financial burden too.

Handmade happiness – there are so many beautiful handmade gifts that you can make to give others. Depending on what you are making to give, you may have to start early in the year to get them done, so not to cause yourself extra pressure to meet a short deadline. Do you knit, make “out of this world” fudge, write poetry or do cute crafts? All of these things can be very sweet and special gifts.

Initiate family gift exchanges – talk to family about drawing names for gift giving instead of a gift for everyone or agree on gifts only for people under a certain age. Be creative and communicate.

Make coupons for services– you can make coupons for gifts of services. Some ideas are, making a home cooked meal, shoveling snow, pet or child sitting, raking leaves next fall, painting a room in their home. Be creative and listen to the things they are wanting to get done. You would hate to hurt someone’s feelings by offering to fix something they don’t feel is broken. This isn’t about you telling them what needs to get done but rather doing something for them they have been wanting to get done.

Share the gift of time– talk to friends and family and ask about sharing the gift of time. Get together for a meal, a cup of tea, volunteer to help a local charity together or a visit to a favorite location. Set a date for after the Holidays and both promise to make it a priority. What better gift than the gift of time.

Meditate – the holidays can be stressful with commitments, planning, shopping, and cooking. Meditate to find your center and remain mindful in the midsts of the extra pressure you may feel.

Remember the reason behind this time of year– the holiday season means something a little different to everyone.  So remember what it means to you. Connect with that heartfelt space and take some deep breaths when you feel anxious.

Reach out for help – If the stress of this time of year seems overwhelming or loneliness is breaking your heart, talk to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255. If you are missing a loved one, find a support group or person who can hold the space for you and just let you talk. Support groups, AA or other similar programs are a couple of places you can go to find support when it all seems too much. Remember you are loved, even when you don’t feel like it and you are not alone, even when it feels like you are.

Have fun! Find the joy in this time of year. There is a lot of it to be had. Live in the moment and enjoy seeing loved ones you don’t always get to connect with. Notice the good cheer in the air, all the extra seasonal events and the generosity that seems to flow through humanity. Look for the good and you shall surely find it.

Wishing you a most happy and loved filled holiday season. Take a deep breath and enjoy all that this time of year has to offer you!

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May your holiday season be joyous and filled with love, as if by magic.

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A Little Something to Reflect On

Before you speak, listen.

Before you write, think.

Before you spend, earn.

Before you invest, investigate.

Before you criticize, wait.

Before you pray, forgive.

Before you quit, try.

Before you retire, save.

Before you die, give.

       ~William Arthur Ward

I saw some version of this quote in a high school class room tonight. In a world where so much is available instantly, there are a lot of radical ideas in this quote. How many of these things do we just go through the motions of and do not even consider?

Before you speak, listen. This first line of the quote is so very profound. How often are we so busy telling everyone all the wonderful stuff that we know or have seen, that we never take the time to listen to what they have to share with us. Speaking without listening hinders learning. The people around us are full of interesting tidbits to share but if we are so busy talking and not listening, how can we learn from them?

Before you write, think. In a world where what we write, can be seen by others instantly, this is even more important. This goes for notes, emails, posts, and texts. So often, in the heat of a moment, we can hit the button and send words out into the world that we never really wanted there.

Before you spend, earn. Today credit cards are a way of life. They are a trap that I have fallen into over and over again. Living within your means is an important step to overall wellness. If you don’t have the cash, don’t do it. Taking a good hard look at “our” finances has taught us a lot about how to have a better overall financial health.

Before you criticize, wait. Judging someone is easy but not always accurate. Waiting will give the ‘other’ time to reveal themselves to you. You may learn the rest of the story which may change your viewpoint. That thing, that seemed worthy of you criticism, may turn out to have been a heroic and selfless act. It’s amazing what a little bit of time and distance from an event can teach us.

Before you quit, try. I can’t even count how many times people have said they are not going to try something because it won’t work out them anyway. They are assuming an outcome and quitting before they even get started.

Before you die, give. What does this one mean to you? What is the legacy you leave the world? How can you give? It may not be money or things that you are giving. It may be sharing information. Giving the gift of your time. So many wonderful organizations really need volunteers. Did you know hospices are required to have a certain percentage of volunteer hours? Children’s sports teams, pet rescues, shelters, community initiatives, and so many other groups would not be able to do the good work they do with out the gift of loving people’s time.

I felt like the words in this quote have so much to say to us as autumn turns to winter. Winter is a perfect time to reflect, learn, and grow. How can you better embrace these principles in your life? How can reflecting on these lines help you be the best version of yourself?

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May your mark on the world send ripples of hope to every corner, as if by magic.

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Choices and Consequences

I remember when I was in college and a bunch of us were sitting around discussing what people in college discuss, totally random stuff. The question came up to name something we believe in. One of my friends answered without hesitation. “Consequences!” She said. That caused a lot of puzzled looks around the table. Now, a quarter of a century later, I totally get what she meant.

Life is full of choices. People talk about making the “right” choice, but how do we define that? Sometimes there is clearly a better choice but not always. Here is the thing, all choices have consequences. Some of the consequences may be positive and some will be negative. There is this duality in all things, like yin and yang. Let’s think about a couple of examples.

There is a project you need to get done for work or school. You plan to work on it this evening. When evening rolls around, your buddy calls and wants you to spend time doing something way more awesome than working on the project. You have a choice to make. If you work on the project the consequences may be:

  1. It gets done.
  2. You do a great job because you had uninterrupted time and could focus.
  3. Your buddy eventually stops calling because you are always busy.
  4. With the project done you have less stress, so the next time you hang out, you have way more fun.
  5. Your buddy totally understands and thanks you, because he gots something done on their to do list as well.
  6. You learn a valuable lesson.

Now let’s say you go hang out instead:

  1. You have fun.
  2. You are stressed because you know the project is still not done.
  3. You get less sleep in order to stay up and finish it.
  4. You don’t complete it on time or correctly and this gets you in “trouble”.
  5. Your buddy and you reach a new level of connection in your friendship.
  6. You learn a valuable lesson.

It is easy to see how both options have pros and cons and of course you could make other choices. Like splitting the time between the friend and the project or having the friend work with you on the project, depending on what it is.

This scenario, as with all the things that we have to make decisions on in life, has no “right” or “wrong” answer. No matter what you choose there will be consequences, both positive and negative in nature.

I encourage you to think about the possible consequences when making decisions but do not labor over them for too long. There is so much of the future that we cannot know. It is impossible to truly predict how things will turn out. Trust your gut. Rely on your intuition. If you can quiet your mind a bit, you will know which direction you are being pulled in. It will be the choice that has more peace and less stress associated with it.

Pay attention to which way your intuition is pulling you and visualize what the consequences are for those choices. This will help you to learn to trust your intuition and get better at making decisions, peacefully.

Thank you for reading my blog today! May your lifetime be filled with happy consequences and easy choices, as if by magic.

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Busy for the Sake of Busyness

Do you ever feel like you are doing something just to be busy? Is it hard to find time to be still? This is definitely something I struggle with. On a nice day I will plan to go spend time outside in the hammock or on the Adirondack chair. I will get myself ready with a cup of tea and maybe bring a book or journal and plan to spend some peaceful time just relaxing. After about 10 minutes (if I make it that long) I will no longer be able to ignore all of the things that need to be done, that are jumping around in my head. I will get up and get busy getting something done. Am I doing things just for the sake of doing something? Why do I feel there is no value in resting and being quiet?

This is one of the things I appreciate about my trips to the BWCA with my Adventure Sister Emy. There were times when it was raining and there was nothing that needed to be done. We would sit under our tarp, listening to the rain, drinking tea and chat. After a couple of hours of this, there would be nothing more to talk or even journal about. All that was left was to sit peacefully and just be. Even in this beautiful, remote area this was very hard for me. I would feel anxious but then typically have a  bout of anxiety, followed by some kind of emotional breakthrough. Almost as if my subconscious was trying to protect me from the pain. As if it was trying to keep it pushed down deep inside and hidden away. I would get anxious and feel the need to do something, anything, rather than just sit peacefully and rest. There were times this feeling of anxiousness was so strong I felt I wanted to leave the Boundary Waters all together. Once I got past the anxiety though, a rush of bare emotions would flood up in me. These were not fun emotions but, by allowing them to come up, I was able to process them and eventually move past them.

This begs the question; is the constant busyness of our time really just a manifestation of emotional disconnect. When I have free time at home I am seldom able to just be quiet and let time pass. I always feel the need to be multitasking. When I am on the plane or the bus to the rental car center, I seldom just sit peacefully. Typically I am scanning emails or playing silly games on my phone. I heard Deepak recently refer to it as the “illusion we are doing something”. Why do we feel guilty when we do nothing? How often does this really happen? Even when we relax, it is typically in front of the TV. Take a look at your life and see if (like me) you find that you are always doing something.

So all of this begs the other question; how do we change it? It is safe to sit peacefully and do nothing sometimes? Is it even honorable? How do we get there? Currently I am trying meditation. I feel it helps me see that it is healthy for me to spend sometime quietly, just feeling the rise and fall of my chest while I breathe. I hope that from meditation I can move to a place where I can sit in quiet contemplation. It was so powerful when it happened organically, as it did, in the BWCA. Even having the chance for a once a year retreat to allow for some quiet, seems like an excellent idea. I certainly do not have all the answers here. In many ways this question is as individualized as we all are. There is power and awe in those quiet moments. They are worth looking for and fighting to protect.

Thank you for reading my blog today! I love you! May you find many peaceful moments throughout your life, as if by magic.

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Common Ground, Can We Find It?

As I was scanning through Facebook this morning, I saw several people who felt the need to voice their opinion, on other people’s posts. Have you ever felt so angry or strongly disagreed with something a friend posted on FB, that you just had to reply? I bet we all have. But have you ever replied with a snarky comment in response to someone else’s post? This is what I witnessed this morning and have many times before. Someone feels so strongly, that they not only need to respond, but respond with a fairly negative comment. I have been told these people are called trolls.

I do not believe this is a healthy practice. First of all, many people rallied to support the person this “troll” was attacking. They were not kind to the “troll” thus becoming trolls themselves. (I do not like name calling and I think calling these people trolls probably hurts real troll’s feelings. They don’t want that kind of reputation- even if they did try to eat the 3 Billy Goats Gruff… it’s the circle of life after all!) I think expressing our opinions can be a positive thing, when it is done in the spirit of working to understand one another and find a middle ground. Then it is a beautiful and mature way to deal with our differences in opinions.

I really believe we need to allow others to have their own opinions. In this human experience, we are all having, we are all in the place we are perfectly meant to be. No one is better than someone else. From a spiritual stance there are probably some flaws in all of our opinions. Instead of trying to berate or change the opinions of others, what would happen if we just accepted others “as is”? Imagine if we all looked for our similarities, worked together, and just agreed to disagree on certain issues. I believe there is a way. Through loving our fellow voyagers in this human journey, we can work together. We do it all the time in our ordinary lives. I have co-workers who have a whole array of various opinions and beliefs. Some align with mine and some do not. Yet we still all manage to work together and are a wonderful team that, not only supports each other, but is very productive as well. My parents each have beliefs and opinions that are different than mine but I still love them like crazy and respect for them as they are.

I believe it is important that we allow others to have their own opinions and beliefs as a practice in love and acceptance. I also believe that doing so will bring us more peace. We can’t change others and when we are constantly trying to, it messes with our sense of peace and security. I am not suggesting we tolerate comments that are hurtful to ourselves or others. I only want to suggest we deal with them in such a way that we do not also become hurtful to others as well. Accept that this person is in a different place on their journey than you are. Kindly provide them with education if you can. Perhaps right now, some issues are so big, we can’t get to a middle ground. On the smaller issues, keep trying. On the bigger ones; try by looking for the good, the Divine, the Human behind the opinion.

Yes, I understand this is my usual happy Pollyanna attitude about life, but if we don’t start changing our approach to others, we’ll never get beyond the superficial. I feel we are so much more than our beliefs and opinions. I encourage you to let others have their opinions and look for the common ground. It is there! Sometimes it just takes more digging to find it in others. When you do I bet you find we have more in common than what makes us different.

Thank you for reading my blog today! May you have a life of feeling loved and accepted, as if by magic! I love you!

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