Friday, December 26, 2008

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Heart

On Christmas Eve I woke up and walked past the mirror and glanced at my reflection. I do not have high expectations of how I look when I first get out of bed and often laugh at my Hiawatha hair. But this was different. I almost didn’t recognize myself. Something was wrong. I looked at my eyes. They looked flat and dull. Still in logical, rather than spiritual mode, I got out a flashlight and looked a little closer. Then it occurred to me, my eyes lost their sparkle.

Knowing my life needed a spiritual boost and not a visit to the optometrist, I sat down in front of my altar and began to pray. I’m a devout Buddhist and my daily ritual includes reciting part of the Lotus Sutra every morning and chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Since this is something I have done daily for more than 20 years, there are times when my prayer – or chanting – is not as powerful as it can be. On this particular morning I made certain I would not just go through the motions. I took a deep breath, thought about how grateful I am to have the ability to use prayer to transform my life and I connected with the enlightened state that all of us have within.

However, I still felt I needed something more to get me through the holidays. I went to the library and looked for Sonia Choquette’s newest book, The Answer is Simple…Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit! The city library had been facing deep budget cuts and this included a cutback on the purchase of new books. However, much to my surprise, they had a copy of Sonia’s book. Unfortunately it was checked out. I put my name on a waiting list and was told they would request the book from another branch. My spiritual pick-me-up would be in my hands in a couple of days.

However, I still felt like I had a little work to do. I went back to the library shelves and found two other books to generate a little internal good will. I made my way to the self checkout desk and proceeded to check out a book on aura cleansing and one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. However, when I scanned the book the computer screen directed me to talk to a librarian. I figured something must be wrong with the book’s barcode. My initial reaction was to forget about the whole thing, but not wanting to leave empty handed I marched over to a librarian for assistance.

Much to my surprise, less than 10 minutes after requesting Sonia’s book, and before I could hightail it out of the building, someone returned the book, a library clerk checked it back into the system, and it sat on a cart waiting for me to take it home. Even Scrooge would have to take note of the incredible timing of this little Christmas miracle.

Before I left the library parking lot I took the CD that came with the aura cleansing book and popped it into my CD player. My mood shifted into a more spiritual realm as I considered my good fortune. When I returned home I began reading Sonia’s book. Within the first few pages she outlined the symptoms of a disconnected spirit – right down to the description of eyes that have lost their sparkle. I was living through my ego and not my authentic, spiritual self. No problem, I was ready to reconnect again.

All of the serendipitous events of this Christmas Eve were not lost on me. I was fortunate enough to take note that my eyes lost their sparkle and I took the initiative to do something about it – pray. With a body fueled with good intent and a desire to make positive change, I went to the library at the right time to get exactly what I wanted and needed. And not what I needed two days from that time, but at the exact time I needed it most.

On Christmas morning I was in the mood for a little levity. During the holidays I have a silly, little Christmas comedy medley I enjoy listening to. Unfortunately, no one else in the house shares my enthusiasm for these songs. And to make the matter worse, my favorite tune, the first one on the CD, had been skipping. My spouse (who usually hates hearing these songs) suggested I play it. Now this is not exactly a Christmas miracle, but for those who know CB, it is pretty darn close. However, there was one caveat, if the music skipped, I’d have to play it another time (when CB was running or hitting golf balls in the yard). I turned on the CD and it played with no problems. To my delight, CB listened and even laughed at the clever lyrics.

As the day progressed I went on to enjoy a wonderful Christmas luncheon with my siblings and nephew, and another get together with my ex husband, daughters, son-in-laws and granddaughter. These gathering are sometimes stressful, and the weather was cold and rainy, but my mood was sunny. It was a glorious day. My one-year-old granddaughter, Rosannah, was an absolute delight. Her zest for life reminded me that life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured. Of course she enjoyed her presents, but she was just as happy to rip paper, play with the boxes, smile at everyone, and show how she not only had mastered walking, but she could do it with her hands behind her back.

When I woke up the day after Christmas I walked to the bathroom and glanced at myself as I walked past the mirror. I still had Hiawatha hair, skin that bore the imprint of wrinkled sheets, and the typical stench of morning breath – but something glorious had happened. My eyes were sparkling again.

As Featured On EzineArticles

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chop, chop!

I remember accompanying a friend of mine to a workshop and taking part in a little demonstration. We were put in teams of two. One person held a disposable wooden chopstick firmly in front of them, holding one end of the stick in each hand. Their partner took a business card and was instructed to break the chop stick with the business card.

As soon as this little game was explained I had a powerful thought. “I’m going to break that chopstick on my first try.”

I don’t know what made me feel so confident, but I just knew I was going to do it. Now mind you, I’m not particularly strong or fast. However, I was feeling particularly powerful and wanted to prove to my friend – and myself – that I could do whatever I set my mind to do.

My partner, Andrea, went first. She whacked away with her business card against the chop stick until it was a pulpy mush. Other people smacked, hacked and swiped to no avail. It took a while, but eventually one person broke the chopstick. Then another and another succeeded. Now it was my turn. I took the card and made a bold swipe. The stick instantly broke in two. Andrea looked at me in disbelief. I just smiled. I did exactly what I imagined I would do.

I wish I could tell you that I’m always so successful. It’s not that I (and you) are not capable of these little (and big) victories in life. We are. But little nagging voices of self doubt come marching in like ants to a picnic. Those old, sad stories of how we aren’t good enough, or smart enough, or talented enough, tug at our self confidence and stop our efforts before we start. I have heard these nagging doubts referred to as “your evil twin” mocking any attempt at success.
You can’t tell other people to shut up (not safely anyway) but you can tell your evil twin to take a hike. And you should – as often as the little creep whispers nasty nothings in your ear. As long as you believe these sad stories, they will continue to have power over you. Make it a practice to rewrite your life’s script and choose to believe the winning moments of your life as your model. Our actions are the direct result of what we believe we can do.

Robert Collier once said: “Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives.”

The proof of this is illustrated as my little story continues. I went home and repeated the chopstick demonstration to my 14-year-old daughter, Brittany. I got out a pair of chopsticks and a business card and tried to replicate my earlier success. There is something a little intimidating about a teenager’s disbelief and mocking smile. I took the business card and swiped it against the chopstick. It didn’t break. I took a moment and thought about my plight. What was different? It only took a second. A little self doubt had crept in. I paused, took a deep breath and mustered up the power I knew I had within me. WHACK!. The chopstick broke in two. Brittany was amazed. I was proud and relieved.

So what is the moral of this story? If we believe in our personal power, rather than focusing on our failures, we can be heroes in our own life story. So, don’t just sit there reading. Go out there and do something amazing. Chop, chop.

As Featured On EzineArticles

Friday, November 28, 2008

Obviously You're Not Looking Hard Enough

Sometimes the most obvious things are the hardest to see. A recent example is this past Thanksgiving. We invited 16 people over for the holidays and my spouse and I were running around trying to get the food and house in order for the big feast. After looking in the same place – twice – I found the ancient, orange table cloth for its once-a-year outing. However, I was not so fortunate locating the pads we put on the table to prevent it from getting scratched (over zealous appetites and sharp forks can be a dangerous combination).

I looked in the garage where these pads have lived for many years. No luck. I retraced my steps, my spouse took up the search, and I looked again for good measure. Still no luck. I looked under the bed (where I did find the table leaf and a family of dust bunnies), checked the closets and even some really obscure places. Was I really thinking I was going to find those table pads in the spare bathroom? Frustration and panic can really unleash some strange thoughts.

I’m generally a patient person, but I hate it when I can’t find something. Of course I knew this was my spouse’s fault because I ALWAYS put things back in their proper place. I kept running this nasty script in my head about how if CB would just put stuff back in the SAME PLACE every time instead of experimenting with another idea, this would NEVER HAPPEN.

Time was ticking away and I needed to get that table protected from the hungry hordes. Finally, CB asked if the pads were in my office. I had checked the office closet – twice. Then it dawned on me. I had purchased a new desk several months ago and put the pads on the desk to prevent it from getting scratched by the office equipment. How often do I see these pads? Try no less than eight hours a day six or seven days a week. The missing pads are literally inches from my nose every single day, but I don’t see them. So what does this mean (besides the fact that I am not observant and had to eat humble pie instead of pumpkin that day)? For me it was how the most obvious things are invisible.

Since it was Thanksgiving, it is easy to reflect on how there are a multitude of things to be grateful for, but they are largely taken for granted. I have lived through many turkey holidays and enjoyed abundant food, as well as numerous friends and family to share the day with. Sometimes the guest list changes. Many loved ones have passed away, and new ones, including my one-year-old granddaughter, Rosannah have joined the family. Every year is precious.

Something else that is invaluable, but not always easy to see, is our own personal power. There are those magic moments when we feel great and everything clicks into place. However, when things are difficult it is easy to go down the negativity highway, and let little bumps morph into Mount Vesuvius. In my angry little mind, I had a whole novel in my head about my spouse’s thoughtless actions. I had visions of my beloved table pads being used to test drill bits and then being placed under our leaky truck to prevent oil from staining the driveway.

I admit it, the self-help writer got a little nutty with her own imagined negativity. But fortunately, I stopped my crummy thoughts in the prologue phase instead of chapter six. So you see, I struggle with the same issues as everyone else, but I’m coping with it a lot better than I used to. Part of the reason is since my writing partner, Jackie, and I have written our new book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, I feel obligated to practice what I preach. And I do. I mess up now and then, but I stop myself before I get too carried away.

It really is true that if you want to master something, you should try to teach it to someone else. So please carry on our message. If you have questions, shoot us an email. If you want us to give a little talk at one of your meetings, or you would like to host a seminar, just let us know. Our goal is to erase a little negativity however we can.

And for a preview into the future, our next blog entry is going to delve more into the invisible power concept. I’d say more now but this message is already too long. Besides that, I have three table pads sitting in my office and I need to figure out where I am going to put them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Who You Calling a Turkey?

I heard a story that someone asked a Polish citizen living under the communist regime if he regarded his Russian comrades as friends or family. “ Family,” he quickly responded. “You can choose your friends.” Now with Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us will be face to fork with family and in-laws who may put us in a “fowl” mood (okay, okay, no more of bad turkey puns in this blog entry.)

So how does one face these challenges and keep an optimistic attitude?

I think the biggest defense is a sweet offense. And I don’t mean shoving pumpkin pie up their nose. Try to disarm those negative Nellies with kindness. If someone asks, “Did you get a job yet?” Smile sweetly and ask, “How kind of you to ask. Do you know of someone who is hiring in my field?” If they know something – great! If they don’t, they’ll keep their mouths shut once they realize you want them to be part of the solution, and not just someone who rubs salt in a wound.

When I’m coaching groups or individuals, I tell them I’ll listen to their complaints for 10 minutes, then I want to hear some solutions. Complaints without a plan of action is a waste of time and oxygen. So when people complain, ask for a solution. If Aunt Martha tells you that you’re too fat, ask her if she would like to join you for a walk around the block after dinner. If Uncle Charlie won’t put an end to his political rant, suggest he write a letter to the editor. You may want to keep a pad of paper and a few pens on you and have them ready – just in case.

There is no doubt that some relatives are nasty. But in all fairness, most have no idea they are being jerks. They are probably ignorant, jealous or insecure. A happy person gains nothing from causing another human being pain. So if someone is mean, chances are they are unhappy - plain and simple. But don’t let sympathy be an agent to help them induct you into their army of negativity. Smile, try a little kindness and march away.

And I’ll be honest, none of these suggestions are a cure all. Erasing negativity is going to be a life-long process. However, the more you practice the steps to overcome your negative tendencies, the easier it will be to let the magic of happiness into your life. In the meantime, hang out with positive folks as much as possible and gird your loins for the unavoidable family get togethers when they do come up.

To sum things up, when friends or family members push those buttons this holiday season, respond with kindness, a request for help, and a little compassion. Aunt Agnes may act like a nasty old bitty, but isn’t there something she did or does that deserves a compliment? The truth is, a hefty serving of kindness is most needed by those who don’t have any to give. So this Thanksgiving, be kind, be thankful for the blessings you have, and pray that more people will learn from your gracious example.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why Erase Negativity?

I remember a friend had a bumper sticker that said: Life Sucks and Then You Die. It still makes me cringe to think of it.

Certainly I’ve spent more than my fair share of time grousing about any number of things. But I’m a realist. Being grumpy, pessimistic and cynical did not work for me.

My methods and observations weren’t exactly brain surgery. It was a simple experiment. I tried the pessimistic route and observed the results. Actually, it wasn’t an experiment, that’s just how I chose to live my life for about 35 years. Then I got hooked reading self help books. I always thought it was funny that I needed to ask a sales clerk where the self help section was located. Hey it’s self help, shouldn’t I be able to find it by myself? But I digress. I read the books and tried to live my life accordingly. My change in outlook did not happen over night. But little by little I did develop a more optimistic mindset and I’m a lot happier.

This would be the end of the story except I want to help other people discover what I learned – maybe with a few shortcuts along the way. So, my friend Jackie and I wrote a book. It’s called Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. It isn’t out yet, but it will be soon. In the meantime, we want to offer a few tips and suggestions so we can do our part to help create a happier world. Of course we hope you’ll buy the book when it does come out. We’re nice people, but we still need to eat.

So here is our first message.

It is impossible to go through life without encountering difficulties. From our first cry to our last breath, the human experience involves a series of struggles. While encountering challenges is an inherent part of life, it is not so much the problems, but the attitude one takes while facing these difficulties that shapes how we view the world.

It would make sense that an energetic and optimistic approach to life would produce better results, but that is easier said than done. An infant who is lovingly welcomed into a kind and caring family is more likely to receive positive messages than a baby who is born into a home where the environment is critical and angry. While there may be exceptions, by and large, we are the sum of our experiences, and generally this is the determining factor of whether we develop a positive or negative mindset.

If it were simply a matter of flipping a switch to receive a positive or negative attitude, most of us would opt for former. Unfortunately, many of us grew up in a negative environment, or suffered physical or emotional trauma that tainted our outlook. Bit by bit, negativity became our way of coping with life. Many pessimistic individuals claim that while a negative outlook may provide fewer positive results, it also protects them from disappointment. Unfortunately, negativity is more like a cancer than a protective shield. It starts small, and may seem innocent enough at first, but if not kept in check the negative mindset can spread and wreck havoc in all aspects of our lives.

“I’m not negative,” you may say to yourself (or out loud). “I’m just being realistic.” Maybe so, but, if that “realistic” approach has resulted in some depressing results and evolved into a downright unhappy life, perhaps it’s time to consider a new, happier perspective.

That is what Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within is all about. It’s a simple guide to recognize and diffuse negative behavior and replace it with a positive approach. No one is born negative, it is an acquired habit. Whether you were raised in a negative household, or acquired a downbeat demeanor after a lifetime of disappointments, it was a habit you learned. Perhaps your realistic approach (the one your friends and family call negative) has been a shield against the worst of life. After all, if one prepares and expects the worst, it will reduce the painful effect that most assuredly will follow. Unfortunately, this approach comes with some depressing results – a disapproving mindset, negative results and an unhappy life.

On the contrary, much has been written about the power of optimism, the simplicity of law of attraction (like attracts like) and how positive thoughts, actions and deeds produce positive outcomes. It sounds good in theory. You may even believe it’s true. But putting it into practice is another story.

That is why Erase Negativity was written. Who better than a couple of former naysayers to provide a practical guide to help clean out the negativity in one’s life and adopt a more positive way of living? If negativity is learned, than erasing it and replacing it with a constructive and affirmative life pattern can be learned as well.

The approach to erasing negativity is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Like anything worth having in life, it is going to take work. However, if you read our suggestions, follow the exercises, vow to never give up on yourself and stay with the program long enough to see it really start to work, you will see positive change in your life. So, if you’re ready for a change, please continue checking out the blog, consider some of the books we suggest and find out how you can Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.

And when our book comes out, please buy a copy or two or 300. And don’t forget to tell all your friends.

Peace and Love,

Sally and Jackie