Friday, August 27, 2010

Sailing, Butterflies and the Pursuit of Happiness

I looked out over Point Hudson Harbor and watched the sailboats skim across the ocean. The sun was unusually bright, but a cool and gentle breeze wafted across the water creating an ideal temperature. It was a perfect day.

As I watched the sailboats it reminded me of joyful butterflies flitting about in a graceful dance.

Years ago I had the romantic notion that sailing would be great fun. My only experience had been aboard a small Hobie Cat off Waikiki beach. My then-husband, John, manned the little sails. My job was to lean to one side or the other, and not fall overboard. The only equipment we needed was a life jacket (which the rental company supplied.) This nautical adventure was great fun.

Years later I divorced John and remarried. My new spouse, CB, loves the water and entered our partnership with a 22-foot Catalina sailboat. We live close to a lake (and yes there is water in Arizona) but unfortunately CB’s boat was parked in dry storage at Lake Pleasant in Peoria, Arizona - nearly an hour’s drive away.

Sailing was not a one-time event for CB. We spent numerous weekends taking the 60 mile (one way) trek to the boat, untying the covers, loading up the equipment we would need, hooking up the vessel to the trailer hitch and dunking the little Catalina into the water. This process usually took an hour. That may not seem like much, but when it’s hot, it’s not a lot of fun. My job was to back the truck into the water, wait for CB’s thumb’s up that the boat was launched, then drive the truck and boat trailer back to the parking lot, then walk back to the dock and climb aboard the boat.

Once I was aboard our little sloop, I could enjoy the desert scenery, glimpse wild donkeys and their babies, glimpse fish jumping out of the water and wave to other sailors as they caught a breeze and sailed across the man-made lake.

However, I soon learned that sailing is not a spectator sport. CB did most of the work, but I still had some duties. Sailors have to be vigilant as you are always adjusting the sails to catch the proper amount of wind. There is no cruise control. You also have to watch out for hazards, such as trash, other boaters or a submerged rock or tree. I had the mistaken belief you just adjusted your sail now and again and flitted your way across the water. When you were done, you parked your little boat and went merrily on your way – like parking your car in a parking lot.

That is sooooo not true. There is cleaning, schlepping gear, getting the boat back on the trailer (I hate getting cold and wet, so even when it’s 100 degrees I prefer using lines to corral the vessel so I can stay dry) not to mention all the preparation done in reverse when the sailing day is done.

Sailing may be enjoyable, but it IS a lot of work. The same is true in life. Sailing (and probably the life of a butterfly for that matter) may look carefree and effortless, but it’s not. Happiness is not something you grab like the brass ring on a merry go round. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a brass ring on a merry-go-round. No doubt lawsuits and liability issues would prevent any carousel owner from installing one. But I digress.

The point I’m trying to make is life, work, relationships, and even the pursuit of happiness, is something you have to work at. The same is true of erasing negativity. My co-author, Jackie and I firmly believe erasing negativity is a crucial step in achieving happiness.

The following is a snippet from 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.

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, you are the sum of your experiences, and generally this is the determining factor of whether you develop a positive or negative mindset.

If it were simply a matter of flipping a switch to receive a positive or negative attitude, most folks 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 a 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 life.

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

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 the material in the book, 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.”

Not long ago CB sold the boat. I was initially relieved, but I know there will be a bigger boat in our future. Our adventures on the lake will be traded for coastal cruising along the Pacific Coast.

Watching those sailboats off Point Hudson made me smile. It looked like effortless fun, but I know better. The same is true in life.

It takes work to erase negativity and embrace the magic within. But isn’t your happiness worth the effort? In conclusion I would like to remind you that life is not meant to be a painful austerity. Life is meant to be enjoyed. But my fellow navigators of life, that doesn’t mean that it will always be smooth sailing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Erasing Envirnomental Negativity

I enjoy traveling, seeing new sights and soaking up the culture of other places. I recently had the opportunity to live and work in the Pacific Northwest for six weeks. The Washington coast could not be more different than the Arizona desert I’ve known and lived for most of my life.

Yet, when I returned home, trading the emerald-colored trees, cool temperatures and the snow capped mountain peaks of Hurricane Ridge for the dusty brown, hot and dry Arizona desert, I still felt a sense of relief.

I was home again.

Those who know me and my semi-reluctant camping ways, may assume the relief was because I was luxuriating at the convenience and comfort of a real bed, running water and electricity that wasn’t limited to a campground restroom. You try keeping a lap top and cell phone juiced up without a generator.

But, alas, that was not an accurate depiction of my travels. Three weeks of the trip were spent in a cute, two-bedroom bungalow – complete with cable television and Wi Fi. The temporary abode was also conveniently located and I was able to walk in town and visit book stores, art galleries and eat my favorite treat – pizza. So I wasn’t suffering from a lack of amenities.

But it wasn’t home.

So even though I enjoyed the beautiful setting, met some wonderful people and had the opportunity to exercise without risking heat stroke, I was glad to be home again.

One reason I am happy is home is a place where I can enhance my environment to suit my needs. This is no small matter. I learned from Lisa Montgomery, a feng shui expert in Phoenix, that the circulation or stagnation of an invisible energy called qui (pronounced chi) can have positive or negative effects. This ancient Chinese practice consists of positioning objects, buildings and even whole communities to maximize the flow of energy and have it flow more in harmony with nature. The following excerpt is from my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, regarding the results Lisa experienced using feng shui techniques in her own home.

“I saw a dramatic change in three months,” said Lisa. “Once I was able to put feng shui into practice, along with a positive attitude, everything came together. My financial situation, which had been strained, improved. And not just typical things like making more money. I’d enter contests and win. My luck changed dramatically. But, best of all, I felt more comfortable and in balance with my environment. And when you feel balanced and happy, it makes sense that your life is going to be more open for good things to come. Even now, I tell clients, I can’t promise you that feng shui is going to make you rich, although a lot of them do see their money luck change. But I can promise that you will experience more harmony in your home and feel more balanced.”

Not everyone wants to employ a feng shui expert, so here are a few things a layperson can do to enhance qui in their home.

•Give the house a thorough cleaning. Qi stagnates in a messy environment. Not everyone enjoys cleaning, but your life is worth it. Clean up your act and keep it that way.

•Get rid of clutter.

•Box items you don’t use and put a date on it. If you haven’t used it in a year, sell it, give it away or donate it to charity.

•Take an inventory of the things in your house. Pay attention to how each object makes you feel. If you experience a negative sensation, get rid of it.

•Surround yourself with things you love. If that means getting rid of that ugly lamp you inherited from Aunt Tilly, so be it. You don’t wear Aunt Tilly’s clothes and you don’t have to live with her ugly furnishings.

For more tips, be sure to check out the book at

In fact, during the Happiness Happens Month of August (and through Sept. 10, 2010) I’m offering a 25% discount on the book.

We may experience setbacks in our lives, but no matter where we hang or hat or pitch a tent, we can take simple steps to erase environmental negativity and embrace the magic within.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Love Facebook

I love Facebook.

Many folks think I joined FB to promote my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. It’s true that it has become a wonderful social networking tool, but business savvy was not my motivation. Other folks think I did it because it gives me a chance to instantly say what I “like” or a venue to “comment” on other people’s posts. I confess, I DO like doing that. People I will never meet still get to hear my opinion on things. They may or may not care about my viewpoint, but they get my opinion none-the-less.

However, the real reason I joined was so I could find out how my nieces, nephews and daughters are doing. Especially my youngest daughter, Brittany. Alicia, my oldest, lives three miles away and I see or talk to her all the time. She is the mother of my two grand daughters, so of course I hang out at her place a lot. When I’m out of town, I call over there to talk to my two-year-old grand daughter, Rosannah. I ask, “Who’s the greatest?” She always answers, “Grandma!” I never get tired of hearing that.

However, Brittany, is more elusive. She works, goes to school and spends time with her husband, Jamie. I can’t always catch her at home or on the phone, so I check up on her through Facebook. Perhaps I’d be better off NOT knowing about her exploits. Learning about her how one of her ex boyfriends was recently named one of the biggest dirt bags in the City of Scottsdale, was not that reassuring. Nor were the notes about her trips to Vegas and numerous hangovers. But at least I know she’s well enough to type.

In addition to the mom-snooping, advice-giving components I love about Facebook, I have the joy of reconnecting with friends. One dear friend, Karen, called me today. She is moving back to the Phoenix area and I’m looking forward to seeing her again. Karen and I are both Buddhists and have worked side-by-side to help develop humanistic leaders, advance world peace efforts and encourage better understanding through dialogue. This is not unique. These are the goals of our Buddhist organization SGI-USA (you can learn more by visiting
I treasure friendships, but the kinships I developed that were forged while working toward the greater good are even more valuable. In addition to the camaraderie and genuine caring that comes with having a great pal, another benefit is they can help keep you on the right track.

Talking to Karen not only reminded me of the great things we have done, but of the greater things we still need to accomplish. Her call came at a good time because I was suffering the after effects of a migraine. Unlike my daughter, Brittany, this had nothing to do with partying in Vegas or drinking too much. The skull-crushing pain is one of the down sides of having these excruciating headaches. Even when the pain subsides, I don’t feel like doing anything – much less anything more altruistic than watching Oprah on television.

But talking to Karen helped spur me into action. You have to love a friend like that. And she would say there were times I did that for her as well.
In my book I have a chapter that talks about victim mentality. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially when you are depressed or in pain. Here is an excerpt.
“However, rather than dive into her profession, Chloe sputtered and hemmed and hawed and found every excuse imaginable to fail. Chloe recognized she had self- defeating behavior, but felt she couldn’t control it.

Chloe’s reasoning is not unique. Whether we are merely existing, or actively pursuing our dreams, we can become overwhelmed when things do not go as planned. However, using challenges in our lives as a reason to develop and gain wisdom, rather than an excuse to give up, is a key factor between success and failure, health and sickness, and happiness or misery. While it may seem comforting to find ourselves blameless for the things that happen in our lives, it also leaves us feeling powerless to change our current situation.”

We all face challenges. I am no exception. We can succumb to our weaknesses, or we can rise above them. We can withdraw from the world when we are in pain, or we can offer a helping hand to someone who is even worse off than we are.

Here is my weekly advice. The next time you read about a friend on Facebook who is suffering, pick up the phone and call them. Better yet, finagle an invitation to see them in person. Facebook and My Space are great connecting tools, but they can’t replace the joy of hearing a friendly voice or feeling a warm hug.

I would like to end this article with some lyrics written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson and sung so beautifully by Diana Ross. If you get a chance, play the song and listen to all the words. I hope it not only cycles through your brain and gets stuck in your head, I hope the message continues to percolate through your heart and evokes a friendly reaction.

Reach out and touch
Somebody's hand
Make this world a better place
If you can.