About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Favorite books

Beaming love to the world

Heart 2

In recent meditations, I’ve been getting some intimations of what’s next for me in the new year. One of the primary things I’m expecting is a (figurative) expansion or enlarging of my heart. Today I made a SoulCollage card (above) to represent this idea.

On Christmas evening, after all the festivities were complete, I was shuffling a stack of books on my ottoman to get to a reference at the very bottom, when I was drawn to another book in the stack, Sonia Choquette’s Ask Your Guides. I flipped it open and read a few chapters, one of which was about light beings. (Each chapter of the book addresses a different type of guide.)

In this chapter, Sonia writes about encountering light beings who encourage her and her audiences to help raise our planet’s collective vibration from fear to love–a change they characterize as necessary for our survival.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the rampant fear that often surrounds us, in the form of negativity, prejudice, judgment, war, existential dread, hoarding, lack of generosity, and many other forms of ugliness and unhappiness. At Christmas time we refer to the spirit of fear as Scrooge or the Grinch, but it’s with us all year round. Perhaps you’ve wanted to do something about it. Maybe you’d like to see more optimism, sharing, positive solutions, openness, acceptance, peace, and flow in our world. If you’re reading this, I’m pretty certain you do feel that way.

Here is something you can do about it. I have begun doing this as part of my meditation practice.

To get started, place your hands over your heart, and imagine the energy of your heart chakra arcing clockwise through your hands, around your heart, and back again. You can ask for the support of all light beings who are interested in helping us raise our vibration in this little corner of the universe, to strengthen this energy. After a few minutes, extend your hands in a way that’s comfortable for you, to beam this energy outward. Feel the loving energy flowing through your hands.

As in the lovingkindness meditation, you can direct your loving energy first to specific people, and then to larger groups, ultimately sending it to the world in general with the intention to raise our collective vibration from fear to love. Remember how much stronger love is than fear. Allow the energy to flow for a few minutes, or as long as you like.

If you try this, please feel free to share your experience below.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Advertisements

Friends in high places

Angel

I clearly remember how my mind was blown when I first picked up Doreen Virtue’s Archangels & Ascended Masters in the bookstore. As I write, it’s here next to me on the sofa, just where it usually is.

I was raised Protestant, so unlike my Catholic friends, the idea of asking a saint or Mother Mary for help was completely foreign to me. At the time I picked up the book, I still thought of, say, asking St Francis’s assistance with a pet as pure superstition to be pitied–one of the relatively few childhood-taught beliefs I still held.

So when I picked up this book containing a mixture of angels, Biblical figures, saints, deities from various cultures, and so on, with information about the specialties of each, a channeled message from many of them, and the author’s statement that she had worked with and had a purely positive experience with each entity, it was absolutely mind-blowing for me. If this were true … I could practically feel the final walls of my childhood mental model of how everything worked falling, like the walls of Jericho. (There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a model … you just have to be ready to let it go when a better model arises.)

Today, all these years later, not a day goes by that I don’t ask an angel or ascended master for help. Sometimes I’m asking for help with something lovely and elevated, but more often, I’m asking for help with something like keeping my cool in a potentially difficult situation, or for cooperation when dealing with some corporation or other. I did this recently before calling my corporate mortgage holder because my annual escrow statement made no sense, and I was simply amazed. The person I spoke with was truly knowledgeable, flexible, and really helped me get exactly what I wanted, as well as teaching me new and helpful things I didn’t know about my online banking.

Angels and ascended masters, according to several sources I’ve read, all operate according to the Law of Non-interference. This means that unless our lives are in danger of being cut short in an unplanned manner, they allow us to go about our business unless asked for help–at which point, I’ve found, they can really make an amazing difference.

These are some of my very favorite angels and ascended masters–the ones I return to again and again.

  • Hardly a work day goes by that I don’t ask for Solomon’s assistance. I find that when I do, I’m wiser, calmer, more measured, and make very few mistakes. My judgment is enhanced.
  • I always invoke Archangel Haniel prior to social situations, or an interview or meeting where I need to make a good impression. I always feel more at ease and have more fun.
  • According to Doreen Virtue, Archangel Raguel oversees all of the other angels, ensuring their harmonious and orderly cooperation. I’ve experienced some truly stunning turnarounds with uncooperative people after invoking this archangel. Try it and see (unless you don’t know any uncooperative people, in which case move along!).
  • I always invoke Archangel Gabriel prior to writing or creating art. If I’m trying to decide among ideas, or looking for inspiration, I ask for her help with that too. I find that when I do, my writing flows effortlessly, and I’m able to complete my projects with an absolute minimum of angst and friction. No doubt some of this is due to an awful lot of practice, but a great deal of the credit goes to this archangel. I can easily prove this to myself by starting a project without asking for her help–but I don’t feel like proving it very often.
  • Archangels Raziel and Uriel help with enhanced psychic insight and communication with guides. If I have a question I want an answer to, I generally invoke one of these archangels before meditating on what the answer might be.

Now maybe this is a new concept for you, and if so, please don’t take my word for it. I’m a big believer in “whatever works” (and not a believer at all in things that don’t). I would suggest that if you’re interested, choose whichever angel or master most appeals to you. Next time you find yourself in a situation where you could use their sort of help, just ask for it. I like to invoke an entity as I meditate for 15 minutes or so … for me, that seems to make the invocation more powerful.

I hope you’ll try it, and I’d love to hear about your experience.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Angel + Guide. This card is the second one I made, hurriedly and with limited materials at a workshop–but it is not incomplete 🙂

How to go with the Flow

Flow

I remember when I first started reading about the Law of Attraction, in books by Esther Hicks/Abraham and others, one of the first things that struck me was the emphasis on ease–the implication being that life shouldn’t be a struggle.

But my life was a struggle. I fought for everything, and always had. I thought that’s how it was done. (Maybe you think so too.) Every day I felt like a salmon swimming upstream. I decided I’d like to try living life a different way.

I started setting positive intentions for experiences I wanted in my life to flow to me, using intention to align myself with the Flow, and the Flow with me. I figured that if I did this, I’d no longer feel I was swimming against the current.

This turned out to be quite true.

If you find yourself struggling today, here are some ideas that may help …

  1. Be sure your purpose is aligned with the Flow. You may notice that striving for things that are, when you come to examine them, actually unimportant, feels like an uphill battle. After all, there’s nothing natural about a lawn without weeds–or even a lawn, full stop. Maybe there’s a reason you feel like giving up when you try to please a difficult person, or lose those last five pounds, or climb a ‘ladder’ someone else invented. Instead, try getting in touch with the Love inside you, and find a purpose–even a very small one to start with–that springs from that place of love. Then turn your attention to this purpose that’s in alignment with the Flow, away from the goals that aren’t.
  2. Plug in to the Flow by getting out in nature. Take a walk. Plant something you find lovely in your garden. Feel the beautiful life Force all around you. Inside you.
  3. Be creative–just like the Universe. Cook something delicious, or make a collage. Look at your handiwork, or taste it. Observe that it is good.
  4. Try a guided meditation that makes you feel 100% better, and puts you in touch with your higher Self.
  5. Listen to uplifting music that raises your vibration. Anael is a favorite of mine.
  6. Keep a gratitude journal to help you become aware of all that is right and beautiful and Flowing in your life.
  7. Ask a favorite saint, angel, or ascended master for assistance. You may just be amazed at the results. (Doreen Virtue’s Archangels and Ascended Masters is a favorite resource of mine. My copy is seriously worn.)
  8. Set some intentions that align you with the Flow, and the Flow with you.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, One with the Flow.

How not to judge

Willing

A couple of experiences yesterday clearly reminded me how little I like being judged. You know how when you’re on a diet, you start noticing foods that are unnecessarily caloric? I think it may be similar when you’ve released a lot of negativity and judgment … when you run into it, it really starts to stand out in stark relief. It makes you uncomfortable, and it’s clear that it has no value or really, useful purpose.

I was on my way to a friend’s alumni association crawfish boil, stopped at a light, when a woman gestured to me to roll down my window. Generally when people do this, it’s to convey some kind of useful or at least well-intentioned information, like that one of my tires is low.

This time was a bit different. Based on my bumper stickers (“Hope, not fear”) left from the 2008 election cycle, she inquired about my support for the President, and then yelled, “I just wanted to see what stupid looked like!” She then closed her window quite promptly, clearly uninterested in (or perhaps afraid of) my thoughts on her thoughts. I shook my head and muttered to myself that I hadn’t wanted to see what ignorant looked like.

When I arrived at the event, even before I could park my car, I immediately noticed great enthusiasm for wearing the school colors of purple and gold. My friend hadn’t said anything about this, but since purple is one of my favorite colors, I happened to be wearing purple shoes, eyeshadow, lipgloss, and (known only to myself–and now you!) purple underwear. This, it turned out, was insufficient, and others at the table (also alumni of other schools, but unlike me, forewarned) let me know of their superiority in wearing the school colors. Ah, joy.

In the back of my mind for probably months now, I’ve been thinking about how I want to renew my own commitment to eliminating judgment from my life. These experiences were catalysts in helping me decide that the time to do that is now.

I grew up in a family and a church that absolutely prized judgment of others. Though my family read the Bible through each year, Jesus’s words “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1) seemed to register with no one. I remember puzzling over them, trying to imagine what that meant, how that would work.

I became really interested in releasing judgment from my life about 7 years ago when I read Wayne Dyer’s The Power of Intention (published in 2004). He mentions briefly the work of the late Dr. David R. Hawkins, who measured various vibrations, such as those of documents, books, people, and so on. Dr Hawkins’ work indicated that higher vibrations are very powerful, and that one person vibrating at a higher level can balance the negativity of many lower-vibrating people. I found this idea quite exciting, but there was just one problem. I knew I didn’t meet the criteria for the first level. This is what I read …

    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of optimism and a willingness to be nonjudgmental of others will counterbalance the negativity of  90,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower weakening levels [which basically consist of fear and lack of integrity].
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of pure love and reverence for all of life will counterbalance the negativity of 750,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower weakening levels.
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of illumination, bliss, and infinite peace will counterbalance the negativity of 10 million people who calibrate at the lower weakening levels (approximately 22 such sages are alive today).
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of grace, pure spirit beyond the body, in a world of nonduality or complete oneness, will counterbalance the negativity of 70 million people who calibrate at the lower weakening levels (approximately 10 such sages are alive today).

Here are two compelling statistics offered by Dr. Hawkins in his 29-year study of the hidden determinants of human behavior:

    1. One single avatar living at the highest level of consciousness in this period of history to whom the title Lord is appropriate, such as Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha, and Lord Jesus Christ, would counterbalance the collective negativity of all of mankind in today’s world.
    2. The negativity of the entire human population would self-destruct were it not for the counteracting effects of these higher energy fields.

As I read this, I felt I was doing fairly well on the optimism front, but I knew very well I wasn’t nonjudgmental. But I was willing to try.

I started writing in my journal every day my intention to be willing to be in non-judgment of others. I found that this really made a profound difference in my life.

I really love the “willing” part of this statement, by the way. It seems to open up a space where–just like thoughts during meditation–judgment may come up, and then you can meet it with the willingness to release it and be in non-judgment. And as with thoughts during meditation, with practice, judgments become much less frequent.

In my view, releasing judgment doesn’t mean that you’re not aware of what’s really happening … that you don’t understand it, that you don’t know when you’re dealing with someone who’s as trustworthy as a rattlesnake. My interpretation of non-judgment is that you do notice all of these things, and act accordingly–you just don’t feel the need to judge them. Two common responses of mine when judgment comes up is, “We’re all doing our best” (which is so often true) and “No one asked me to judge.” This is also quite true. No one with any moral authority has invited me to judge anyone else–nor will they.

Now I want to take this practice to the next level. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’m going to do that, but I’ve decided that when judgment comes up, I’m going to reiterate my intention then and there …

I want to be willing to be in non-judgment of others.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Willingness to be in non-judgment + personal Witness. This could probably also be considered a Waterbearer card. The water and water jug are meant to represent the life-giving nature of creating a higher vibration.

How to look younger

Jacob's sheep

That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful. –Ninon de l’Enclos

Last weekend I had dinner with a group of foodie friends, including one I hadn’t seen in a few years, only once since he moved away. He immediately started trying to figure out why I looked different: “Your hair’s darker. [I denied it because it’s still its natural color, but he may well be right–hair does darken with age, and mine is less chestnut than it used to be.] You look younger!”

I immediately inquired what exactly he’d been smoking in New Orleans. I know for a fact that I haven’t been aging in reverse. In fact, it’s just in the past few years that I’ve gone from looking younger than my age, to … not.

But when someone else, who has seen me continuously over the past few years, said she’d also noticed I looked different, I wanted to know what it was they were seeing–and more importantly, why.

After dinner, when I stopped by the ladies’ room, I took the opportunity to consult the mirror. Indeed I did look younger. My face looked fuller, softer–relaxed. I realized the tension was gone from my face. What had I done, anyway?

Then I remembered.

My laptop had died the day before, and when I got home with my new laptop, I was looking for ways to enjoy its exponentially better Beats Audio sound. I decided to listen to both the evening and–for the first time, the next morning–the morning guided meditations on Doreen Virtue’s Chakra Clearing CD.

It turns out that while the evening meditation is great for winding down and processing a difficult day, the majority of the chakra clearing work happens in the morning meditation. Since time in the morning seems to be chronically short for those of us who don’t create our own schedules, I find a weekend morning is best for this meditation. (I like it so much, though, that I may well try to make time for it on certain weekday mornings. It’s about 25 minutes, slightly longer than the 15-20 minutes I normally meditate.)

I feel compelled to note that the meditations include a couple of moments that could be construed as cheesy, but I am all about what works. Considering how well these meditations work, I am completely willing to forgive those moments (and I’m certain cheesy is in the eye–or ear–of the beholder).

I listened to the meditations again last night and this morning, and today I found that doing the meditation really zapped the indefinable ‘crummy’ feeling I woke up with–I’m not sure of its source, perhaps the unpleasant storm that swept through with extremely high winds while I was still trying to sleep. The meditations had the same effect on my face as before.

I hope you’ll try these meditations for yourself. When you do, I think you’ll find yourself feeling better, more relaxed, and yes–looking younger.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Jacob’s sheep, some of whom are very young indeed.

How to set an intention

Compassion

This living of the contrast, which causes a focusing of desire, calls forth the Creative Energy of the Universe, and is, in fact, what causes all Life to evolve. –Esther and Jerry Hicks (The teachings of Abraham), in The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent

Perhaps, like this little lion, you’ve been experiencing a bit of contrast (that is, what you don’t want) in your life of late. In my world, that means it’s time to set an intention or two.

At least in the US, the Law of Attraction is widely accepted in the culture at large, no doubt thanks to The Secret. But exactly how to set intentions effectively is probably not as widely understood. This is what works for me …

  1. Start small. Before you start on the major issues of your life, it’s a good idea to start with something small and inconsequential first, to play with the process and see how it works. For example, “I’d love to see something today that makes me laugh.” Or, “I’d love for someone I don’t know to strike up an interesting conversation with me.”
  2. Be clear about what you want. What is a must-have? Nice-to-have? Not important at all? I like to state, in addition to what’s non-negotiable, what I’d like to have if I can.
  3. Write it down, read it over, mull over it for awhile. (It wouldn’t be a bad idea to set aside a journal specifically for this purpose.) What’s missing? What doesn’t feel quite right? If anything’s amiss, write another draft that feels right to you. Meditate, and look at what you’ve written again.
  4. Be positive. As you probably already know, the Law of Attraction literature says the Universe can’t hear “not” or “no.” I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I do remember reading in Arielle Ford’s The Soulmate Secret the story of a woman who put on her list of soulmate qualities “Must not be Irish.” She met someone who matched the rest of her list quite remarkably. They’d introduced themselves using first names only, so some time went by before she discovered that his last name was something along the lines of O’Malley. When she explained that she had been trying to avoid Irish men because two previous men in her life had been part Irish, he quickly explained that the real problem had been that they weren’t 100% Irish! She decided not to hold it against him. I have nothing against the Irish (let’s hope not, as I’m part Irish myself), but maybe it is best to be positive. So instead of “Absolutely no smokers!!” you could say “Free of addictions” and “Willing to accommodate my preferences with regard to smoking.”
  5. Keep your intentions general. You don’t need to include the “answer” in your intention–that part is the Universe’s to take care of. For example, “I want Bobby McGee to finally wake up and see that I’m The One!” There are several problems with this. You may or may not be The One for Bobby, but even if you are, Bobby has a mind and will of his own that only he controls. Also, by the time you had Bobby in hand and he opened his mouth, you might find that he bored you to tears. Many men are better in your imagination than in reality–sad, but true. There’s also just one Bobby, but perhaps many men who otherwise are exactly what you want. So instead of stating specifics, it’s best to generally describe what you want. If you must include Bobby, I would suggest creating a list of what you want as usual, and then add, “And I’d love it if this person could be Bobby McGee!” A nice-to-have rather than a must-have.
  6. Imagine what it will feel like when your intention is fulfilled.
  7. Turn your intention over to the Creative Energy of the Universe for fulfillment.
  8. Refer back to your intention on a regular basis. Make reading it, reiterating it, and imagining it part of your daily spiritual practice.
  9. Ask for guidance about whether there’s anything you can do or need to do to help manifest your intention. It’s a common modern (and perhaps particularly American) belief that we must continually be striving for what we want. In my experience though, sometimes you need to be still, and sometimes you need to act. There’s a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1).

Here’s an example intention. This is my list of what I want in my next job:

  • Fairly close to home–prefer about a 20-minute drive or less
  • A great boss–understanding, appreciative, fair, reasonable, ethical, has integrity
  • Flexible, pleasant work environment
  • A positive company that’s doing well financially
  • Reasonable, pleasant, supportive coworkers
  • Generous pay and benefits that meet all my needs
  • Challenging, interesting work that allows me to make a difference
  • Low stress
  • Full time
  • Allows me to feel settled, and for my personal life and writing to flower

I ask that information about jobs that meet my criteria flow to me, and that that everyone at these companies smile on me, my resume, and my references.

One common misconception about setting intentions is that it’s not work. On the one hand, since you’re aligning yourself with the flow of the Universe, it’s very different from the salmon-swimming-upstream effect of a lot of striving. On the other hand, the commitment, faith, and focus associated with setting intentions are not exactly like falling off a log. I don’t really recommend making a list and putting it in your underwear drawer. I recommend keeping what you really want more top of mind.

You know that when you ask, it is always given; therefore, you have no desire to avoid contrast, because you understand the focusing power of contrast. –Esther and Jerry Hicks (The teachings of Abraham)

When you experience contrast–and you will–consider it an excellent opportunity to reiterate what you really want instead!

May your intentions and mine be fulfilled.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Compassion + The Lioness.

 

Just love

Source

Since I posted my Soul Essence card yesterday, I thought I’d post my Source card today. It’s another of the Transpersonal cards that make up a SoulCollage deck. The Source card represents, of course, the source of all that is.

According to the SoulCollage book, Transpersonal cards don’t speak and cannot be read. So I was a little surprised to feel guided to make one, as typically there would be a message associated with this process. Sure enough–and perhaps to be expected, given that I am just a little different–no sooner did I have the card in my hands than it did exactly what it wasn’t ‘supposed to’ do.

Perhaps Source has very few rules. Perhaps only one (from my reading of the card) …

Just love.

A path forward

??????????????

A manual for human beings … Should be read by every person alive. –Boston Globe, reviewing Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom

I used to consider it a great luxury to stay up late, reading to the end of a book. As I did so Friday night and Gracie tried valiantly to herd me to bed, I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve indulged.

Last night’s book was Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. I’d bought it some time ago, and initially got bogged down in the childhood and early adulthood chapters. I took it out of the bookcase a few days ago and got down to the part I was really interested in–the activist years, the trials, his philosophy, resistance techniques, imprisonment, and finally (after an unimaginable 27 and a half years), freedom.

I hadn’t originally found the book to be a page-turner, as the cover blurb tells me the Los Angeles Times Book Review did, but Friday night it certainly was, and after a difficult day at work, I was happy to immerse myself in a world of far greater challenges than mine.

The impetus for reading the book started when I went out of town for a few days last weekend. I’ve noticed that when I do, I seem to receive an extra measure of guidance when I meditate. Last weekend, it came to my attention that it would really serve me to be as absolutely free of resentment as I possibly can be–and that I wasn’t there yet.

As I pondered this over the next few days, Nelson Mandela, whom I’ve long admired for the quality of forgiveness and magnanimity that seems to me a huge theme of his life, came into my mind. And so I picked up his memoir once again.

As I put the book down at 2:30 am, I realized a 40-minute meditation wasn’t going to happen. I decided to meditate for 5 minutes or so before lights out. I usually invoke an angel or ascended master when I meditate, and though I wasn’t sure whether he technically qualified, Mr. Mandela seemed the obvious choice. So I asked for his assistance in releasing all resentment from my mind, spirit, and body. As I mentioned my body, I was surprised to feel an unpleasant weight lifting from the pit of my stomach, which is still gone as I write, and a lovely sense of peace descend.

I went to bed at 3 am, feeling that I could see a path forward in my own immediate journey.

How to meditate

meditation

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day. –Deepak Chopra

When you have pain in your body, when all sorts of thoughts are going through your mind, you train again and again in acknowledging them openheartedly and open-mindedly, but not making them such a big deal. –Pema Chodron, in How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind

Before I started meditating, some years ago now, I resisted doing so for a long time. The instructions all seemed inane–“Just focus on your breath. It couldn’t be simpler.”

When meditation is difficult for me now, my favorite method is to focus intently on the sounds around me. The clock’s pendulum, back and forth. The barking dog outside. A dog breathing at my feet. Leaves being raked. Whatever’s happening–there’s always something.

A common misperception is that you need quiet in order to meditate. People often tell me that they have to wait for more perfect circumstances to start meditating. The apartments where they live are too noisy, or their dog has dementia and wants to go outside every five minutes.

The bad news, and the good news, is that life never gets perfect. You should also know that someone, somewhere, is always using a leafblower. You must simply begin.

Meditation is a way to create peace and quiet in a noisy and imperfect world, not to mention a noisy and imperfect mind. When I describe to people what meditation is, sometimes they’ll tell me there is never a break in their stream of thoughts.

If you meditate, though, there will be.

I remember being dismayed when I started meditating that it seemed I wasn’t very good at it. There’s still the occasional day when that seems true. If you find that you’re not either, remember that the beauty of meditation is that you don’t have to be good at it to reap its benefits. And, you will get better.

Key to the whole process, I believe, is dropping judgment about having thoughts. There seems to be a belief that meditation involves turning off your thoughts. It does not.

It involves becoming aware of your thoughts, and gently releasing them. As this process continues over time, more space opens up between your thoughts.

When I become aware during meditation that I’m thinking, I let the thought go, like cutting the string to a helium balloon, or releasing a bubble to the surface of water. There is less than no point in thinking, “Oh damn, thinking again,” because that is creating more of what you don’t want. So release any judgment along with the thought.

Thinking is what everyone is doing, even during meditation. However, those who meditate are having fewer useless thoughts, even when they’re not meditating. The habit of creating mind space (as well as of dropping judgment) carries over into real life. Thank goodness.

Besides creating calm, peace, and tranquility, a major point of meditation is to create space for guidance and wisdom to come to you. If the noise of your busy life is preventing you from hearing your inner wisdom, meditation clears space to allow it to come through loud and clear.

I typically meditate 15-20 minutes (I set a timer), both morning and evening. If work is really pushing my buttons, sometimes I’ll take 10-20 minutes to meditate at lunch as well. I keep Doreen Virtue’s Archangels and Ascended Masters on my coffee table, and often ask for the help of an angel or ascended master as I meditate. I also keep a journal nearby, so that when guidance comes to me I can write it down. It’s encouraging to flip back through my journal and read so many positive and encouraging words.

I find that meditation really centers me in the morning, preparing me for my day, and calms me at night, preparing me to sleep.

I’ve just recently started a 40-day x 40-minute meditation challenge. I’m still meditating 2-3 times a day, but extending one of my meditation sessions to 40 minutes. So far I’m finding the 40 minutes quite long, but I also have a sense that the extra time is benefiting me in ways I don’t fully understand.

If you aren’t yet meditating, I encourage you to simply begin! Even 5 minutes a day will benefit you. And if you’d like to meditate longer, please feel free to join the challenge!

Of budgets and windfalls

Verbena cottage

I never thought I’d be the one to say this, but there’s something about making and sticking to budgets that really feels great. Perhaps it’s being the creator of discipline, rather than having it imposed upon you by outside forces and circumstances.

I structure my budgets to ensure that I can have some of what I want right now, in accordance with my belief that every plan (budget, diet, or what have you) should include carrot as well as stick. There’s an overall outline for the year, various goals measured in months, and then a very specific budget for each pay period. Each of these allows for bills to be paid, debt to be paid off, and necessities, as well as some entertainment (going out to eat with friends or antiquing) and other “want to” types of spending. (I initially typed “wait to” types of spending–and waiting is certainly a key concept in my theory of budgeting. Suze Orman‘s idea of waiting a day to go grocery shopping can be applied to many types of shopping and spending.)

Not long ago I watched Oprah’s recent interview of Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance who made, and then lost, millions from its royalties. I’ve found it food for sobering thought ever since. It would be very easy to think, I’ve got more common sense than that! It could never happen to me.

But it’s happened to more than one inspirational writer, all of whom have published books that seem to indicate they knew better–this situation is not a one-off. And it happens when people get windfalls at all levels, whether it’s a relatively small storm-relief stipend spent on a Louis Vuitton bag, or millions of dollars earned and spent with very little left to show for it.

It all seems to beg the question, Is it my values or my circumstances that are determining my lifestyle and the choices I make?

Since 2005, I’ve been participating in an online discussion about building a wardrobe via a handful of high-quality acquisitions each season. This discussion has turned into a virtual support, accountability, and advice network that stretches over continents. It’s a way of life now, an ingrained habit for me to carefully consider every clothing purchase I make. My intention is always for every item to be beautiful, useful, and make a lasting contribution to my wardrobe. I take a similar approach to buying the other things I need.

This approach is important to me, not just because I want to use my own resources–such as time, money, storage space, and head space–wisely, but also because I don’t want to grab an inordinate amount of the planet’s resources. I want to take only what I’ll really use and enjoy, and leave the rest for others.

So what (I ask myself) would happen if there were no practical limits other than the ones I myself set? Magazines are chock-full of documentation of the obscene results that can occur when people have huge amounts of money to spend. I have yet to understand, for example, what people can possibly be doing in a 25,000 square foot house.

I’ve always preferred cozy little cottage-like houses … they speak of home to me. I truly don’t understand the appeal of a house you could truly get lost in–unless perhaps it’s an historic treasure. Still, it’s hard to imagine actually living in a castle. I’d really prefer to live in the gamekeeper’s cottage. (Of course, Sarah Ban Breathnach also lived in a cottage–Newton’s Chapel.)

My house is 1400 square feet, and I found when looking at 25+ houses that there was a very specific size that felt right to me. I’m a fairly abstract person, I’d always thought not that spacially-oriented, so I was interested to find that even 100 additional square feet registered as too much.

So 25,000 is a bit mind-blowing for me. Do people really find that comfortable, or is it just about impressing others? Or oneself? These are the kinds of questions I wish interiors magazines would ask (perhaps a bit more obliquely), instead of about the difficulties of bringing a hugely bloated space back down to human scale.

I’d like to believe that should I experience my own windfall, I would continue to take a measured approach to spending and acquisition. That I’d still value a few exquisitely beautiful, high-quality things. That I’d still want a house that feels cozy and home-like to me and others. That I’d still believe that all the best furs are attached to furiously-wagging tails, and greet you at the door of your cozy cottage.

%d bloggers like this: