Thursday, July 29, 2010

Where Have All The Christians Gone?

Someone sent me this joke and I saved it. I’m printing it as a topic for this week’s blog.

Squirrels had overrun three churches in town. After much prayer, the elders
of the first church determined that the animals were predestined to be there.
"Who are we to interfere with God's will?" they reasoned. Soon, the squirrels

The elders of the second church, deciding that they could not harm any of
God's creatures, humanely trapped the squirrels and set them free outside
of town. Three days later, the squirrels were back.

It was only the third church that succeeded in keeping the pests away.
The elders baptized the squirrels and registered them as members of the
church. Now they only see them on Christmas and Easter.

I’m not exactly sure why I find this joke so funny, but I do. Last weekend CB and I were going kayaking near Port Angeles, Washington. It was a beautiful day. We passed a few churches along the way. All the parking lots were empty. At first I thought we were driving by too early. But later in the day as we were driving back, the same thing was true. Not a soul on church property. Now mind you, I wasn’t in church, but it annoyed me somehow that people weren’t doing their Christian duty.

“I guess they just aren’t that religious here,” I said to CB. “If we were back in Arizona these parking lots would be full.” Of course I don’t believe you need to be a church-goer to be a spiritual person. During our visit to Washington I’ve met some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. The drivers stop at the yellow lights and most of them wave for pedestrians to cross even if they are several yards from the curb. Somehow, though, this lack of church participation bothered me.

I realized that in spite of my best efforts, I still harbor some judgmental tendencies. I don’t want others to criticize my actions, but yet here I am a Buddhist with a Jewish background (affectionately known as a Boo Jew) and I wanted to know why all the Christians weren’t plopping their butts in the pews while I was off kayaking.

Of course I don’t want to be too harsh on myself either. The important thing is for me to recognize my faults and try to adopt a more loving and optimistic way to live. That is why I consistently have to remind myself to practice what I preach in my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. The first step in erasing negativity is to recognize the problem. The second is to replace negative behavior, speech or thoughts with a positive one. For instance, rather than judging the church-avoiding folks in Washington, I sent them a silent prayer. The third step is to smile in front of a mirror for one minute. This feels weird to me, but I do it. If nothing else, my cheesy grin makes me laugh. It breaks the grouchy spell and I’m less harsh in my judgments of others.

I don’t care who you are, there are going to be times when you act less than your best. It does no good to beat yourself up over it. Just make a conscious effort to change the behavior and be consistent about making the more desired action a part of your life.

That was my little lesson last weekend. “Judge not, yet ye be judged.” Oh, and the Christians in Washington are probably no better or worse than any where else. Once I returned home I realized that it was Saturday, not Sunday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The ABC's of Gratitude

I was recently on a panel for the blog radio show, Gab with the Gurus. The topic was gratitude. I encourage you to listen in. However, here are a few questions that weren’t asked, but how I would’ve responded if I had the chance.

What Role Does Gratitude Play in Your Life?

Honestly, I wasn’t always a grateful person. I was like a lot of folks who took the good things in my life for granted. My parents tried to instill me with a sense of appreciation, but I was a typical kid, and the middle child to boot, so I was always arguing because I thought my siblings were getting a bigger piece of cake, and I was getting more than my fair share of the yucky liver and onions.

But I enjoyed reading motivational books and gratitude was always a common thread. In fact, it was a sense of gratitude in the messages that I read in other books that finally made me, and my co-author, Jackie decide to write a self-help book. We realized that many individuals had suffered so much in their lives that they would not be able to embrace an optimistic approach, or adopt a sense of gratitude until they eliminated their negative behavior. Trying to be optimistic, or grateful, without addressing daily, negative behavior would be like treating the symptom, but not the cause.

What are Some Ways to Increase Gratitude and Help Others?

I love the line in the Joni Mitchell song, “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you got til it’s gone.” I came back from two weeks of camping and I have new appreciation for flushing toilets, running water and a nice, comfortable bed.

Back-to-basic camping is a good reminder of the many things we take for granted. Most of us are not going to purposely put ourselves in a position where we lack the things we want and need, but we can put ourselves in situations where we can appreciate what we have by choosing to help those who are less fortunate than we are. For instance, we can volunteer at a soup kitchen, visit an elderly person in a nursing home or become a reader for the visually impaired. There are thousands of opportunities. The benefit is two fold. You not only learn to appreciate things in your life that you previously took for granted, you also have the opportunity to help others and become a source of light in the world.

Name one reason that people are negative and ungrateful?

A sense of entitlement is a big reason, but if you ask the ungrateful folks why they are bitter, they are more likely to tell you they had an unhappy childhood. My observation is people’s perception starts early, and it takes work to shift them into a more grateful mindset. Plus, we are bombarded by negative news. It skews people's thinking. The world is not 100% bad, but the bad stuff is what is getting reported. You have to change your world view a bit to get a more balanced perspective. Good things happen every day. You have to look for them. That’s why gratitude journals and daily affirmations are so important. It’s more than seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. It’s a reality check or balancing technique against the bombardment of negativity in the news.

What are three tips on how to become more grateful?

In the first chapter of my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, we begin with having the reader pay attention to their thoughts, speech and actions. Becoming aware is the first step. Once they are aware they can take steps to change their behavior. People have no idea how many negative things they say until they are asked to count them in an hour.

1. Become aware of the problem. A lot of ungrateful people think they are just being realistic.
2. Replace negative or ungrateful behavior with something positive. Instead of whining, do something to correct the situation, even if it’s writing a letter to the editor. The first behavior puts the person in a victim mentality. Taking action, even a small action, puts you in a more empowering mode.
3. Smile. It sounds simplistic, but if you spend one minute in the morning and smile at yourself in the mirror, something changes. If you are grouchy, chances are good the irony of it will make you laugh. And that’s a good thing!

These are a few hints on how to incorporate gratitude and happiness into your life. But don’t stop there, I encourage you to read the many wonderful books that are available on the subject.

The main thing is to do something, anything, to live a more grateful life. You will be so grateful that you did.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I recently went on a road trip along the Pacific Coast. I was awed by the majestic Redwoods that stood like proud titans protecting our nation’s sacred lands and wildlife. While driving along the highway with towering trees on either side of the road, CB, my nature-loving spouse, remarked it was like driving through a church. In fact, the light filtering through the trees was reminiscent of pictures I saw in an illustrated storybook of Bible stories that I enjoyed as a young girl.

Admiring the magnificence of the California and Oregon coast, I contemplated the vastness of the ocean and what my role might be in protecting and preserving the beauty and sanctity of our planet. The world seemed vast, yet while enveloped in this wondrous terrain, I also felt empowered to embark on a life mission to do something truly great.

Then reality set in.

We stopped for the night in an RV park and an angry young man was screaming such violent obscenities at his wife that the police were called in. I feared for the safety of the woman and her baby. However, the mere presence of the police car was enough to quiet the man down and restore peace to the park. I doubt it had a lasting effect, but for the time, things were quiet again.

Unfortunately, I no longer felt as empowered as I had earlier. This violent scene temporarily sucked the courage to make a difference in the world right out of me. I can only imagine how this angry man’s wife and baby felt.

It occurred to me that anger and fear can have a shrinking effect. At least it does for me. It seems that all one’s attention is on something very narrow and confining. I once heard that we need to have an expansive outlook so that we can embrace the surrounding area – the planet – and even the galaxy.

At times, my mentor, Akiko, would ask how big was my world? Not THE world, but MY world. When I’m angry, hurt or fearful, my world is so small. What I’m angry about is all I can think about. It’s like when you have a toothache. You may be in expansive, even beautiful surroundings, but all you can think about is that nasty, throbbing ache in your mouth. Your world has infinite possibilities, but the reality is it becomes the size of a tooth.

During our travels, the confined physical conditions of my sleeping arrangements that I share with my spouse, a bunny, his cage, and a plethora of camping equipment that encompasses our Ford 150 truck and camper, is quite small. CB arranges it nicely, but it can be hard to maneuver. CB calls our little camper shell, Casa Bonka, because the likelihood we will bonk our heads is almost inevitable.

But I don’t have to live in a camper shell. I temporarily sleep in one, but at any time I can step or crawl out of our vehicle, look at the glistening starts and feel the infinite universe and possibilities that await me.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Interview Promo

Below you can find a promo for my Hollis Chapman interview.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Let's Hear Some Noise from the Boys!

Men may not be from Mars and Women from Venus as John Grey suggests in his aptly titled book, but they might as well be. It wasn’t until I was interviewed today by Hollis Chapman, a great host on blog radio, that I caught a glimpse of a man’s perspective on a topic that I enjoy discussing. We chatted a little about optimism, sports and of course my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.
I don’t receive a lot of input from men. My friends are mostly women, I’ve been divorced for a decade, and my descendants – two daughters and two grand daughters – are both double X chromosome carriers.
The topic was confidence. Somehow I assumed lack of confidence and playing small so others would not be intimidated, were decidedly female traits. But Hollis confided that in his youth when he was active in sports, he did not want to draw too much attention to himself for fear that his buddies would feel bad (Hollis was an All American athlete.). However, I believe Marriane Williamson’s quote is a better way to go:
Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.”
Talking to Hollis made me realize that I judge men too narrowly. It also made me realize that some of the “trash-talking” athletes he encounters as a referee are not really as they appear. My guess is they try to cloak themselves in confidence, but the real uniform they are wearing is arrogance. It made me think of a chapter in the book that deals with anger. The story is about David, a raging alcoholic who described himself as an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. On the outside, he seemed confident, but he was masking his insecurities and when things didn’t go his way, he turned to anger.
Here is a quote from the second chapter of Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.
“To alleviate anger and change irrational behavior, one must change the conditioned response. The next step is to try to identify the underlying feeling that triggers the anger. Many times it is a feeling of not feeling worthy, stemming from verbal, mental and sometimes physical abuse during childhood.
Those who have not developed appropriate coping skills are often more easily angered than others. But the problem doesn’t end there. Anger often gives birth to insidious side effects – cynicism and doubt. Over time, if these feelings of distrust prevail, the result can be catastrophic. Skepticism chips away at any expectation that positive change is possible. Often the result is all hope evaporates, leaving only a lingering cloud of hopelessness and despair.
The good news is anger cannot thrive when acceptance, gratitude and understanding prevail. In David’s case, attending AA meetings and working the 12-step program was essential. He not only had the support of fellow members, he gave his support as well. With his compassion, rather than selfish ego running the show, he became happier, kinder and more in control of his emotions.”
How often have we seen people who we think are confident literally explode when things don’t go as they plan or expect? Is that confidence or arrogance? If I were to make the call, I’d paint a big A on their forehead. In a more charitable mood I can even feel pity for that kind of display because they might as well take out an advertisement that declares how insecure they really are.
While I absolutely believe developing confidence is important, we should never believe or act like we are “better’ than anyone else. We may develop greater proficiency in different skills, or possess a physical attribute that others may or may not value, but that does not make us more “human” than anyone else. We are all interconnected and it’s our ego that perceives our separateness and need to judge and condemn others. I believe this is due to fear and a severe lack of confidence. But that is a subject for a future blog.
So whether your struggle is lack of confidence, negativity, or even arrogance, I hope you will read Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. And please tell your friends. We can all use a little help.
And guys, please email me your thought on the subject of confidence, arrogance and playing small. I was wrong thinking that many of the messages I write are only applicable to women. It is a human topic. Mea culpa. So how about it fellas? Let’s hear some noise from the boys.