Sunday, May 30, 2010

Generating a Laser Beam of Love

Throughout my life I have heard, read and studied about the importance of being a warm and loving human being. Below is one of my favorite quotes.

"More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. Strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!" Nichiren Daishonin.

This quote from a Buddhist priest and the founder of Nichiren Buddhism, is one example of how developing our hearts and compassion is more important than accumulating material wealth. This is not unique to Buddhism. Every religion that I’m aware of has a similar tenet. Of course, as in all good deeds, knowing something and practicing it are two different things.

I try to be kind, or at least thoughtful. I open doors for moms with strollers, I let anxious-looking drivers into my lane of traffic, I call friends on their birthdays. This is small stuff, and certainly does not put me on the same page as Mother Teresa, but it’s a step in the right direction. However, I had a recent experience that demonstrated just how powerful a little jolt of love can be.

I was babysitting my two grand daughters. Rosannah is a typical 2-year-old bursting with energy, laced with a tad of toddler defiance. Briannah, at 10 months, has learned to crawl and is hell bent on exploring everywhere her little hands and knees will take her.

It was getting late and I was running out of ideas. I had played games and watched Baby Einstein with my grand daughters and made sure they were clean, fed and diapered. When I have the girls over, they get my complete attention, a luxury most parents can’t afford. But played “peek a boo” so many times that I was too pooped to peek a second longer.

I was lying on the guest bed with the girls. Rosannah was also tired and I was hoping that if we all lay down together she would sleep. It had been a long day for the little two-year-old. She is in a transitional stage in her life. She has some autonomy, but not a lot. And most of the things she wants to do get her in a lot of trouble. She sees her younger sister, still very much a baby who likes to be held, given a bottle, and rocked to sleep. I can imagine that a part of Rosannah wants that, but she probably feels she is too big for such coddling. Even at such a young age I can sense she is torn between being a baby and being a “big girl”.

Of course she talks and sings and can do a lot of things her younger sister cannot, and she gets kudos for it. I have her trained that when I say, “Who’s the greatest!?” she responds with an enthusiastic “Grandma!” She also knows I enjoy hearing her count, sing Old MacDonald has a farm, and laugh at my Donald Duck sneeze. She gets positive feedback for performing, as do adults.

As Rosannah took her “blankie” and curled up in a corner of the bed I looked at the sleepy child. My heart filled with so much love. Briannah was still crawling around the bed, so I had to keep a vigilant watch to keep her from tumbling onto the floor. But in a moment (and it truly was only a moment) I let my heart fill with love and directed it at the sleepy Rosannah as she lay in the bed. I didn’t say anything. I channeled the love I felt and sent it to her like an emerald green laser beam. At that moment, and without prompting from me, she took my hand and brought it up to her heart. I have no doubt she felt my love and responded in kind.

I later thought, “Why am I saving these bursts of love? Why can’t I take a moment, relax and fill my heart with love and send it out to more often? For that matter, why do I have to limit it to members of my family?”

So I began directing little laser beams of love to others. I shoot it out to folks when I stand in line at the grocery store. I transmitted it over the phone to my friend recovering from surgery. I even launched twin lasers of compassion to the couple who sat in front of me at the movie theater (and thankfully they relaxed in their seat and slumped enough that I could see the movie without difficulty.)

I have to admit that I have to take a moment to generate this compassionate energy. My heart responds a little slower than my brain. I have to pause a moment, let my heart fill with love, then zap. Nobody knows I’m doing this. Yet I can tell it has a powerful impact. Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself.

We are facing a tough economic crisis and many of us may not have the time or money to help all the charities and organizations who need our generosity, but all of us can afford to take a moment, relax and send some love out to someone – anyone.

I will end with this great quote from Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.

“How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Little Jolt of Joy

I was recently interviewed on World Talk Radio, American Dreams: The Sky is the Limit.

I had not been feeling that well earlier in the day, and I also had some concerns about the phone working properly. However, once I started chatting with the hosts, Jin Robertson and her daughter, Jasmin, I perked up.

Optimistic and caring people have a positive effect on me. And of course pessimistic and selfish folks have a depleting effect. After the interview I was able to go for a two-hour walk and enjoy all the beauty around me.

Prior to the interview I was feeling sluggish and a tad crabby. I may be the writer of a self-help book, but that doesn’t mean I’m always skipping merrily through the park. After all, having an optimistic viewpoint does not make you immune to difficulties, it just provides a more creative way to solve them.

It reminds me of the interview I had with Author, Kimberly Kingsley, who is featured in our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. Kimberly is an energy coach who has learned about the importance of energy and its function in life. She observed that when she, or others she knew, supported their life energy and allowed it to flow, good things resulted. When people resist and block, or constrict the flow, they become physically or emotionally sick or depressed.

In my case, I had been concerned about a clicking noise in the phone. I was out of state and did not have the option to use another land line other than the one supplied. Two calls went out to a technician to have the situation remedied. Some work was done, but it wasn’t enough. The clicking in the phone continued, and so did my stress. I was almost hoping the interview would be cancelled until I could return to Arizona.

In the end, the interview went on, I was uplifted by my banter with the two hosts, and I think the listeners gained some useful insights. And yes, the clicking noise was there, but I think the engineer took care of a lot of it.

The point is, it is best to do things that energize your spirit. This applies to work, friends, hobbies and everything else. The following is an excerpt from Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.

•Avoid working in a career where money is your only goal. If you are stuck in a job that brings no joy and drains you of your energy, find something more nourishing to your soul. Chances are you are feeling stuck, not because you have to be, but because you have decided you have to be.

•Be mindful of the energy exchange you experience with others. Remember that you cannot change others, you can only change yourself.

•Be open to the possibilities in life. Just because things have been difficult in the past does not mean they have to continue to be that way. Your determination and strong intent will move you in the direction you set forth.

•Find things that energize you and avoid those that constrict the energy in your heart, soul and mind. Pay attention to how you feel energetically.

•You are not your bank account, your car, or even your body. When you die, none of these transient things will go with you. Learn to love yourself. Know that you are divine and have unique gifts that only you can contribute to the world.

We make choices every day that help shape how we feel. Why not go with the ones that feed your soul? Perhaps one of them will be to listen to my interview on World Talk Radio (hint, hint). I’ve included the url to the show at the end of this article. And don’t stop there. Listen to Jin’s other guests as well. If you listen and feel energized, then go back and listen on a regular basis. If you don’t, try something else. Everyone has something they can see, hear or do that energizes them. Find out what that is and power up with a jolt of joy today.

Here is the url to Jin’s show:


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sticks and Stones

I had a disturbing experience this past weekend regarding an event that did not proceed as expected. Dozens of folks were looking forward to seeing a spiritual movie, but the person who was delivering the DVD was stuck at the airport. I made a few phone calls to alert everyone about the delay.

Since there was no way we could predict an accurate time the movie would be shown that evening, it left things literally (and figuratively) in the air. It was an unfortunate incident, but certainly not the end of the world. However, one gentleman, who was very disappointed that he may not be able to see the movie, turned the whole situation into a personal attack against him.

I did not take this tirade personally. I knew this gentleman had been suffering from a tragic death in his family, but it was still an uncomfortable feeling to have someone venting so much anger at something that was out of my control.

Fortunately, I have always been slow to anger. I tell people I’m a typical Taurus and I have a long fuse before my anger explodes. However, in my younger days my temper was akin to Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. And like the lava-spewing eruption, the devastation was significant.

Words and actions that erupt from anger are damaging to the perpetrator and the recipient. I once gave a presentation on anger. I recalled a little ditty that many moms would recite to their children when someone hurt their feelings.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

I asked the group to raise their hands if they had ever endured physical suffering in childhood – anything from a skinned knee to a broken bone. Everyone raised their hands. Then I asked how many still suffered from that physical pain. Only one hand was raised. Then I asked, “How many of you were hurt from something someone said to you when you were a kid?" Once again, every hand was in the air. I asked how many of them still smarted from this historical event. One by one, everyone in the room raised their hands.

The point is, calling people names, insulting someone, or nasty verbal exchanges do hurt. In fact they hurt a lot. It reminds me of the story of David, an alcoholic whose story is outlined in my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.

David took solace in drinking as much red wine as he could find. As he continued to drink, his anger erupted into full-blown fury. He became a human demolition machine. The alcohol fueled his rage like gas on a fire. With a sweep of his arm, family mementos came crashing to the floor. He hurled pictures and chairs across the room. Within minutes, the once tidy living room became strewn with broken wood and shards of glass.

He grasped his wife’s neck and began to choke her. But in a moment of clarity, he stopped. Instead he grabbed a large wooden clock on the wall and threw it on the floor. Next he took the sofa table and smashed it into pieces. David’s anger turned into self loathing. He grabbed the leg of a broken table and started beating himself across the wrists.

“Call the police,” David murmured in a defeated tone.

David was placed in the hospital (he was fortunate that his wife chose that option over his incarceration), he joined AA and eventually changed his life. But the damage was done. His wife divorced him, he only sees his daughter a couple of weeks a year, and he is still plagued by the memory of what he did that night.

In an effort to help individuals with anger issues, Erase Negativity offers several exercises. For brevity, I’ve chosen a couple to outline here.


• When you start to lose control or feel angry, move away from the situation or person that is causing the infuriating reaction. If at all possible, take a walk. Do not drive when you are mad.
• Choose your words carefully. Replace irate language and thoughts with more rational ones. Instead of thinking, “this is awful,” “everything is ruined,” try saying, “this is frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world.”


• Close your eyes. Breathe deeply through your nose. Put your hand beneath your breast and feel your diaphragm filling with air. You do not want to inhale through your chest. Hold your breath for a count of 10. Release the air through your mouth. Do this at least five times.
• As you inhale, repeat a soothing word or phrase such as “I am calm” or “relax.”
• Close your eyes and smile for at least 30 seconds to one minute. While you are smiling, repeat in your mind that you are calm and happy. It is impossible to stay angry when you are smiling. This may feel silly at first, but give it a try anyway.
I don’t advocate a life without anger. Anger when channeled to stand up to injustice and create social change, can be a noble goal. But most of the time we are angry because our pride has been wounded.
In short, if you have an explosive temper, make an attempt to get it under control. You will suffer less, and so will those around you. Sticks and stones may temporarily break bones, but words launched in anger can hurt a lifetime.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Let Aggravation Blow Away in the Wind

I just dispersed a bougainvillea flower convention on my back patio. CB and I joke that the wispy, pink flowers from the plants like to have daily conferences. There are times I just let the delicate blossoms spin around and congregate like a pink pool of water. Other times I diligently sweep them up and toss them in the trash. I have been derelict in my sweeping duties and the word got out that the patio was a safe place to gather. So gather they did. I filled almost a garbage pail of the elusive flowers. Hence, the bougainvillea conference became a full-blown convention.

The bougainvillea plants have magnificent red flowers that really add color to the yard, but when they dry up they turn a pinkish color and fly around, gather, and make a mess of things. This is enough of an annoyance that many folks I know won’t bother with the plants. It’s just too much work. I’m not sure why, but I find them charming. I sweep them up and I can almost hear them laugh at me saying, “We’ll be back. Hee, hee, hee.” And of course they do return – again and again and again.

No matter how much I sweep or rake, a few blossoms always escape. It’s not like the sturdier leaves that fell from my parent’s pecan trees. My brother, Terry and I would rake the leaves in a pile, shove them in a dented metal trash can and take turns climbing into the barrel and smashing them down. It was even more fun to jump in the piles of leaves before we put them in the trash. Oh sure, it made a mess of the pile we created, but it wasn’t that big of a deal to get the dispersed leaves back into a pile again. It was one of the few childhood chores that I did that I actually enjoyed.

But the bougainvillea flowers are not so cooperative. They are hard to capture, eager to escape, and downright joyful to return to the cleaned area as soon as your back is turned.

Rather than feel like I’m at battle with the blossoms, I have come to appreciate the lessons they have taught me. There are things in life that we cannot control. It makes me think of the introduction I wrote for my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.

“It is impossible to go through life without encountering difficulties. From a baby’s first cry to the last dying 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 you take while facing these difficulties that shapes how you view the world.”

Now grant it, sweeping up these blossoms is not a huge crisis. It’s more like an annoyance than anything else. But I’ve decided to turn it into a joke. I look at my recently swept patio and see that the bougainvillea blossoms have returned. Rather than curse, I chuckle. “So you’ve come back,” I say to the flimsy flowers. “Hee hee,” I hear them retort. “Go ahead and make yourself comfortable,” I say. “I understand it’s going to be windy tonight and there’s no telling where you’ll be blowing off to next.”

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sowing Seeds of Friendship and Jello

Even though I work hard at keeping an optimistic outlook, I sometimes engage in the “I wonder if?” mind game. This can be fun. It can also be frustrating. When you’re a writer, the hypothetical can be a great way to develop story lines and plot twists. But these “what if?” musing are not helpful when used in retrospect.

For example:

“If only we had invested in Google when it was $6 dollars a share.”

The past is something that can be used as an educational tool, but I don’t think it’s a great idea to use it as a flogging cane. That said, I had a recent experience that set my “What ifs?” in motion.

I’ve often wondered how my life would have been different had my parents not moved the family to Arizona. I was born in Chicago and lived there until I completed the first grade. It was a very welcoming neighborhood and everyone seemed friendly and kind. I had a bit of a reputation of being the female version of Dennis the Menace (my brother, Dennis, had the honors of the male version). I never meant to hurt anyone or anything, but I managed to stir up a bit of innocent mischief.

For instance, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Munroe, lectured us that we should work before we play. I decided that when I went home I would plant a garden. Not one to farm alone, I elicited the help of my neighbors Lee, Bennett and Marty. No one had any seeds, so I decided that boxes of jello mix would work. My fellow farm workers and I returned with boxes of jello and “planted” it in Bennett’s backyard.

I don’t remember the details, but I’m sure it involved a hose, dirt, and multi-colored boxes of colored jello mix on the ground, our clothes and in our hair. I don’t know what I imagined would grow from this agricultural experiment, but I remember feeling confident that something good would come of it. I can only imagine the mess.

However, my intentions were honorable and my mother would rarely punish me for my messy endeavors. She knew my heart was in the right place. Maybe she thought that I had envisioned a garden full of jello molds sprouting in the shape of pumpkins and tomatoes that would make her the envy of her kalookie club.

Anyway, the Marks family left our friends, family and schools in the Windy City, and moved on to Mesa, Arizona (Winter home of the Chicago Cubs). Although I don’t remember the details of our relocation, it must have been traumatic for me as I broke out in shingles. I eventually made new alliances, but I never felt as befriended as I did when I was a little girl playing in my South Chicago neighborhood on Creiger.

When I was 10 years old I decided to become a writer. I wrote for the school newspaper in junior high, high school and college, earned a degree in journalism, and even managed to sell an occasional story. However, making a living as a writer was harder than getting jello to grow in Bennett’s backyard.

That’s when I would think of Chicago.

Chicago was a big hub in the publishing industry and there were times that I thought my creative skills, friendliness and determination would have resulted in a brighter writing career had we remained in the Windy City.

One day, when I was reminiscing about my early childhood, I googled my old home and school. I joined and searched to see if any of my old friends were listed. I recognized Paul, a boy I had a crush on, and who became the namesake of my favorite baby doll. I searched for Marty, who had been my partner in mischief and merriment. He wasn’t listed, but I did see the name of his brother, Brad.

I wrote to Brad and asked about his brother. He sadly informed me that Marty, who always had a spirit of adventure and risk, became a heroine addict and was shot and killed when he was in his 20s.

Of course this was devastating news. I hadn’t seen Marty in decades, but I had always felt had we remained in Chicago, he and I would have been great friends. It occurred to me that an alliance with Marty and the dangerous world of drugs was just as likely of a possibility as networking with individuals who could have launched my writing career.

In our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, there is a section on the importance of friendship. Here is an excerpt.

A desire for acceptance is normal. Human beings are social creatures and the desire to be a part of a group is a primordial component of survival. However, craving acceptance to overcome a lack of self esteem can destroy a person’s life. While it is important to have and nurture friendships, you must not allow others to define who you are. Friends can be valuable, but they are still fallible human beings who may not always have your best interest at heart. In addition, children, and very often adults, may not make the best choices for companionship. Children with low self esteem often gravitate to others who are experiencing similar problems. Sadly, these are the very individuals who are most likely to turn to drugs, alcohol or sex to numb the pain in their lives.

In order to make better choices regarding friendships here are a few questions you can ask yourself.

•Does the person display good qualities such as honesty, integrity and consideration?

•Are they selfish and self serving? All friendships experience a give and take of needs, but if you find you are the one doing all the giving, especially in the beginning of the friendship, it is best to step back and access the situation carefully. Often good-hearted individuals get sucked into an unhealthy alliance with a charismatic friend. Unfortunately, most of these individuals have learned to prey upon the kindness of others and are only interested in what they can take – be it time, money or favors. It is better to walk away from these people right away before you get emotionally involved.

•Do they talk critically about others behind their backs? If so, chances are they will do the same about you.

•Are they cheerful or cynical? Not everyone can be genial all the time, but someone who is consistently cynical operates on a lower vibration energetically, and if you spend a great deal of time with them your mood will be affected.

•Are they trustworthy and loyal? Remember that one’s actions speak louder than words. If a person says they are loyal, but demonstrates qualities that show they are otherwise, consider the actions, not what they say as the true barometer of their character.

We can’t change the past, but we do create our present and future. This week’s advice is “What if I focus on developing healthy choices and friendships?” Now THAT is a hypothetical scenario worth exploring.