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Category: Lists

Forty-eight things I’ve learned along the way

Leo cropped

Nora Ephron famously felt bad about her neck (though hopefully she no longer does). I do not, despite having the sort of neck not found on any swan, the sort of neck not flattered by a flaw-concealing turtleneck.

In those moments when I could be feeling bad about my neck, I instead choose to feel good about the head sitting on top of it–specifically the many contents that were missing in the days when the neck beneath was flawless.

In honor of my birthday, a list of 48 random things I’ve learned thus far. (Links are mostly to previous blog posts.)

  1. How to choose my battles. It’s amazing when I think about it now, how many (unimportant) things I was once willing to pitch battle for.
  2. Being able to recognize my ego’s involvement has really made all the difference. At least 99% of the time, that’s what the battle was really about.
  3. Compassion is a great thing to have on hand when your own or someone else’s ego flares up.
  4. Kindness is also pretty important. Even when you need to draw a boundary firmly, it’s generally possible to do it with kindness.
  5. How to forgive continually.
  6. And how to release bitterness–also key.
  7. I used to think being smart was a lot more important than it really is. It’s nice, sure, but far from the most important thing.
  8. Love–that would be the most important thing.
  9. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear …” (I John 4:18, KJV). When fear comes up in one of its many guises, love is the antidote.
  10. Learning to meditatelife-changing for sure.
  11. I learned I was an artist–and I bet you are too. I’d love to see everyone find a really good way to access their right brains.
  12. I grew up laboring in a huge organic vegetable garden, but only as an adult did I discover the joy of working hand-in-hand with Mother Nature to unleash plants’ amazing desire to grow and thrive.
  13. I still remember reading the magazine article that taught me to recognize a narcissist. Based on my early experience, I was choosing narcissists as friends. (Word to the wise: they don’t make very good ones.) I’ve finally learned to stop doing that. Woohoo!
  14. I’ve also learned to allow others to be exactly who they are. If people in my life are behaving badly, I generally do say a few words about it–and leave it at that. People have to change, if that’s what they’re going to do, at their own pace. I hope that if they’re not ready to hear now, they will be later.
  15. But just because I must allow people to be exactly who they are doesn’t mean I have to allow everyone into my inner circle, regardless of their behavior.
  16. Much if not most of what I was taught as a child simply isn’t true.
  17. It’s OK to be uncertain. Embracing a model that offers a complete set of answers about how the world works is certainly tempting, but it’s also a pretty good way to be wrong.
  18. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter a great deal what people believe, if anything. What really matters is how we treat others. Living a good life isn’t dependent on a particular worldview.
  19. Therefore, beliefs are generally not worth fighting for–but a value might be. Justice is worth fighting for.
  20. Karma is real–a universal law to which there are no exceptions.
  21. At the same time, if you’re a graduate student in the school of life, expectations are higher for you than for someone at the elementary-school level–and that’s fair.
  22. I no longer believe you only live once. I find this comforting, because it means there’s no need to try to accomplish everything, see everything, do everything, in this one lifetime. Accordingly, I don’t have a bucket list–or if I do, it’s a short one.
  23. It’s OK to relax. In fact, it’s a really good idea.
  24. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. Oh, I am an introvert. (I was quite sure for awhile that I was right and Myers-Briggs was all wrong.)
  25. Models are really helpful, but there’s still a lot they don’t reveal.
  26. Life is not a competition.
  27. Cooperation is really enjoyable.
  28. Sarcasm is best in small doses, and is probably not one of the world’s great art forms.
  29. Participation in social media is not a measure of the validity of my life. And Facebook friends are not the same as real friends.
  30. Complaining isn’t a tool for making anything better, though feedback might be.
  31. Having companion animals is totally worth the trouble and mess. And just think of all the money I’ve saved by eliminating carpet and rugs from my life!
  32. An old house is worth the trouble too. But it’s best to have an excellent plumber, electrician, carpenter, and painter on speed dial.
  33. I am the very best person, bar none, to define what my life should look like.
  34. A good, hot bath can cure what ails you.
  35. A good cup of hot tea (my favorite: acai green tea) is also a pretty good idea. I leave my desk for at least one cup of tea every day I work.
  36. Whether or not you should listen to your mother depends entirely on what your mother has to say.
  37. The leaders of my country may or may not be wise. If they are not, I should notice and take an active role in electing those who are.
  38. Self-help is ultimately the only help there is.
  39. But we could all use a hand up.
  40. No one asked me to judge.
  41. The less I judge, the happier I am.
  42. This is what a feminist looks like.
  43. I should decide what is and isn’t BS on the basis of how well it works, not what other people say about it or what it looks like on the surface.
  44. But when in doubt, follow your gut.
  45. It’s a good idea not to abdicate control, but it’s a mistake to think that every aspect of my life can and should be within my complete control. Forces of nature came by their name honestly.
  46. I am responsible for making the world a better place–and so are you.
  47. I’m not perfect, and neither is anyone I know. Discovering anyone’s imperfection should not be surprising. We’re all human.
  48. The best is yet to come.

What have you learned along the way?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Personal power + Leo.

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

Have you made an Earth Day resolution?

Earth Day OK, maybe they’re not quite as famous as the resolutions made at New Year’s–it’s even possible they’re something I completely made up–but nonetheless, I think Earth Day resolutions are much more useful. Think of it as a Mother’s Day card for Mother Earth, who’s done so much for you. This year, my Earth Day resolution is to choose my next car for its eco-friendliness rather than its personality. My current car is a sub-compact, but I could still get double the mileage from a Toyota Prius. One of my prior Earth Day resolutions was to lower my highway cruise control speed. I’ve considered doing this again, but I’m a bit afraid of getting run over! Getting a significantly more efficient car will be much more effective. Perhaps you already have something you know you should do in the back of your mind, but here are 10 Earth Day resolution ideas to get you started …

  1. Resolve that each time you buy something, you’ll choose carefully (no “starter” items, temporary solutions, or stop-gap measures), maintain it, and use it till it wears out.
  2. Resolve to eliminate disposables from your life whenever possible. Use rags instead of paper towels. Instead of using Styrofoam, plastic, or paper at work, keep a mug, glass, plate, fork, and spoon (or whatever you need) at your desk. I keep a sponge and Mrs. Meyers dishwashing liquid in the kitchen at work.
  3. Resolve to limit your clothing purchases. (I guess this is a gender-related thing–I don’t know any men with overflowing closets.) I buy a maximum of 10 good quality items a year (not including scarves, loungewear, etc.). Shoes go to the cobbler and clothes to the tailor when they need repairs, and I get rid of things only when they can be worn no more. This, it turns out, is more than enough.
  4. Resolve to buy some items vintage or antique rather than new. This works for furniture, art, rugs, china, glassware, and much more. Options range from Thrift Town to Sotheby’s. Quality is likely to be better, and since the item has already lasted for some time, it’s likely to keep right on doing so.
  5. Resolve to support an organization that’s making a difference for the environment (such as the Natural Resources Defense Council) with a donation, or even regular support.
  6. Resolve to recycle everything that can be recycled–not just the items picked up from your curb, but the items you have to make an effort to recycle, like light bulbs and batteries. And not just when a recycling bin is convenient, but when you have to carry the item for awhile to get to one. Resolve that if you acquire or use something, you’ll dispose of it properly.
  7. Resolve to close the recycling loop by buying recycled paper, plastic, or glass products–or all three. I resisted giving up conventional paper products for awhile, but I finally realized that I am plenty pampered enough–I don’t need to blow my nose on the paper equivalent of silk.
  8. Resolve to switch to 100% wind electricity.
  9. Resolve that every new appliance purchase will be energy efficient. (In the US, just look for the Energy Star label.)
  10. Resolve to eliminate conventional cotton, perhaps the dirtiest crop on earth, whenever possible. Buy linen, bamboo, or organic cotton instead. Try bamboo towels, and you’ll never go back to plain cotton. Their silky texture and ability to stay fresh (due to bamboo’s natural anti-bacterial properties) are unmatched. Linen sheets and slipcovers are also lovely.

If you’re making an Earth Day resolution this year, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card We have the wisdom.

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

Stretch yourself

Stretch

Lately I’ve been noticing that as I get older, a flexible, limber body doesn’t come for free anymore. Last night as I spent time stretching, the subject of the SoulCollage card I made today came to me.

I’m challenging myself to stretch this week in as many different ways as possible–and I hope you’ll join me (and share your experience here in the comments section, if you like). Here are 10 ideas to get us both started …

  1. Make a monetary gift you wouldn’t otherwise have made. A couple of fun ideas are making a Kiva loan, or adopting a child for Christmas through a program such as Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. (Be aware that they have more gift requests to choose from, if those on display don’t appeal to you. I like to dig for low-tech requests like a tea set or doll’s chair … the kinds of things I liked to play with myself back in the day!)
  2. Instead of an e-mail or electronic conversation–nice as those can be–send a beautiful card with a hand-written note to someone you care about. The best e-mail you’ve ever sent has never been given pride of place on anyone’s mantel, but your card probably will be. This year I got a lovely Halloween card from someone who’s sworn off Christmas cards–and it’s on my mantel as I write. Bonus points for needing an extra sheet of paper to finish your note!
  3. Instead of running one more errand–let’s face it, the to-do list is everlasting and will never truly be completed no matter what we do–take time to enjoy something beautiful. Take in a museum show, watch ice skaters (or be one of them!), visit a sculpture garden.
  4. If you see homeless people as you go about your business, keep food in your car to share with those who are looking for it (I keep protein bars in fun flavors), along with an encouraging word.
  5. Be kind to an animal. Stock treats for the neighbor’s cat who likes to say hello, or take your dogs to the dog park. If there’s a stray animal nearby, make sure it has food, take it to the vet (and be sure they check for a microchip!), see about finding it a home or getting it back to the home it already has. Or, if you have room, adopt a dog or cat. If you’ve never done it (or even if you have), it’s a tremendously rewarding experience, and guaranteed to stretch you.
  6. Have a little more in-depth conversation with someone you interact with on a casual basis–your barista, someone on the elevator at work, a neighbor. You never know when a few kind words may change the course of someone’s life. A simple kindness could be among the most impactful things you ever do.
  7. Express something you might normally keep to yourself. Voice a compliment. Thank someone who’s been important in your life. You could write a letter to your alumni magazine, for example, expressing appreciation for your professors and your college experience.
  8. Put an electronic device away–for an hour, the day, the weekend. Remember what life was like before you had a smartphone, a GPS, a TV (OK, maybe I’m the only one who remembers what life was like without TV!), or a laptop. It won’t kill you, I promise!
  9. Do something different. Go crazy–change your drink order or your route home. Try a new restaurant or ethnic cuisine; cook a new dish. Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tasted before. (If you’ve never had a pomelo, they’re in season now, and they are fabulous!) Jump out of an airplane, if you’ve always wanted to.
  10. When you’re just about to say No, if you suspect it’s out of unhelpful fear, say Yes instead.

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

Nourishing the soul

Lavender fields

This coming week, I’ll have the luxury of time. Following plenty of grueling work, I’m taking a little vacation time, and I’ve also been given some comp time. With the weekend, I’ll have nearly a week off. I thought about taking an impromptu road trip, but ultimately decided to stay home.

So I’ve been giving thought to this question–how best to use this time to enjoy myself, to relax, to experience what brings me joy and pleasure–how best to nourish my soul?

I believe that the soul and body are differentiated, that the soul has its own trajectory before the body is born, which continues after the body dies. But for now, during this life, they are one–so what truly nourishes the soul also nourishes the body, and what truly nourishes the body also nourishes the soul. Meditation nourishes the soul, but it’s also been proven to change the mind for the better, as well as improve health outcomes for the body.

So here’s what I’d like to do next week … I may not get to all of it, but I’m going to have a good time trying!

  • As I do every week, I’ll take time to write. I hope I’ll feel inspired to write a bit more than usual.
  • I meditate twice a day, nearly every day without fail, but I often struggle to carve out the necessary time. Some months ago I accepted a challenge to meditate 40 minutes at a stretch for 40 days. It was a true challenge to find the time to do that, but often it felt like a true luxury rather than an obligation. I plan on some luxuriously long meditation time.
  • I’ve been thinking about a bath each and every day. That sounds like a little bit of heaven. (I take a shower every day, in case you’re picturing Pig-Pen! But I usually only have time to take a bath once a week or so.)
  • As a child, I read all the time, escaping into the world of books. I usually finished a book or two every day. These days, I read a lot of short-form writing, but books? Not so much anymore. I want to find a lovely new book and read it cover to cover.
  • While I’m at the bookstore, I’ll probably indulge in one of my favorite I-have-a-few-hours-all-to-myself activities. I like to select a large pile of magazines from an extensive newsstand, look through them, and choose two or three with the most beautiful images (useful for SoulCollage) to take home.
  • Perhaps I’ll feel inspired to make some collage art.
  • Have I mentioned sleep? Lots and lots of sleep-debt-erasing sleep.
  • Cooking is a beautiful way to be creative, and with immediate, tangible results too! I plan to cook something delicious and a bit decadent–probably my meatloaf, which I shape on a jellyroll pan, and cover entirely in bacon + glaze. Perhaps that’s more than a bit decadent?
  • I’ll definitely take some time to work in my garden. Gardening is a guaranteed way for me to quickly drop out of clock time and into the flow, where I feel I’m working hand-in-hand with God. It’s a great time to do some fall cleanup in the cool early morning hours.
  • Antiquing is another activity I find really relaxing. You never know what you’ll find, and usually I have no shopping agenda. There are no wrong turns, and serendipity very well may be around the next corner. You may see something you’ve never seen before, or find something stunningly beautiful–and be able to take it home for a song. (I’ve been to fancy antiques shows where I admired very old celadon pottery, each piece selling for thousands. But I find the glazes of 20th-century pottery just as pleasing, and nothing could be easier than finding a lovely piece, certainly for less than $100, and probably less than $50. A few weeks ago, I found a vintage red Swingline Cub stapler–à la Office Space, only one of the funniest movies of all time–for $6, and couldn’t have been more pleased.) I’ve made plans to visit one of my favorite town squares and its shops, antique and otherwise.
  • I love new experiences–they’re rather addictive once you start–and so I’ve made reservations at a restaurant I’ve never been to before. It’s in a restored 130-year-old house, just off that town square, that I can’t wait to see!
  • Naturally I’ll spend time with the people and animals who are important to me. I hope to get together with my sister. I’ll wish a friend who’s moving away bon voyage over brunch at a favorite restaurant. And hopefully the weather will be perfect for a visit to the dog park.
  • And of course, solitude is lovely too. There will be some (but considerably less than a hundred years!).

Probably some of the same things that feed my soul feed yours, but I suspect you have a long list all your own. How might you be able to nourish your soul today, or this week, in a truly meaningful way?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Lavender fields.

How to deal with anger

Anger

Buddhism also teaches helpful meditation techniques so we are not swept away by the force of conflicting emotions like anger. These techniques allow us to take advantage of the brief gap in the mind between impulse and action. Through the practice of mindfulness, we become aware of impulses arising and allow a space in which we can consider whether and how we want to act. We, not our emotions, are in control. –Melvin McLeod

For me, anger and a sense of injustice are a motivating force. –Chelsea Clinton, the Clinton Foundation

I believe that anger can be sacred. Anger is meant to lead us to protect ourselves by saying a clear and decisive No to those who would otherwise use or abuse us. Anger is meant to help us create clear and helpful boundaries. Anger is meant to lead us to defend the weak and helpless, and to seek justice and truth-telling. These are all very good things.

I want to mention the upside of anger right up front, because anger is often perceived and talked about negatively–no doubt due to its profane side, which is itself abusive. Learning the difference between sacred and profane anger can be quite difficult for anyone who, like me, has had extensive exposure to inappropriate anger.

I’ve written before about the moment I decided I was tired of being as angry as I was, and that something needed to change. With the work I’ve been doing on grounding over the past month or so, all these many years later I feel like I have finally gathered a complete set of tools to transform my relationship with anger, and so I wanted to write about the topic again.

This past week I read the Readers Write section of the July issue of The Sun magazine. The theme is Never Again. Many of the entries are heartbreaking–particularly one written by a mother who is the child of an angry parent, has now become one herself, and doesn’t know how to change. This, for me, has been the path to that change I decided absolutely had to happen. For me it has been the work of many years, but I don’t see any reason why the process couldn’t move along a bit faster! If you experience anger as a force that seems like it’s controlling you rather than the other way around, I recommend the following …

  1. Cultivate a sense of humor. I wouldn’t say I’ve had every advantage in life, but I have had some important ones. I consider having a strong sense of humor to be at least one of my top five, if not higher. There are definitely things worth getting angry about, but there are a lot more that are well worth laughing about. There’s nothing like a sense of the ridiculous to help you keep your perspective, and appreciate life here on Earth.
  2. Let go of the past. If you’re getting disproportionately angry about little things all the time, in my experience it’s because you’re actually angry about something quite large that you haven’t dealt with. First you have to deal with the elephant in the room. For me, this step was about releasing bitterness about the big things that were bothering me. Once I did this, it became unusual for me to blow up over nothing.
  3. Years later, I started to meditate. If you don’t already meditate, I hope you’ll begin today. People have given me lots of “reasons” why they don’t meditate–but they sounded an awful lot like excuses. If you’ve been making excuses–I can’t meditate because my apartment complex is too noisy; my dog won’t let me meditate; I have no talent for meditation (all actual “reasons” I’ve heard)–I hope you’ll recognize them for what they are, take a page out of the Nike handbook, and Just do it. What’s so important about meditation, you may be asking? Why do people talk about what is, after all, doing nothing like it’s the second coming? I’ve always known I became calmer as a result of meditating, but I’m not sure I could have explained why as well the quote above from the Shambhala Sun, which really illuminated for me the value of meditation as it relates to anger. The much-talked-about “gap” really does make a huge difference in everyday life.
  4. Recognize the ego for what it is. When you recognize your own ego–as well as others’, they’re all pretty much alike, after all–and you no longer have to be right all the time, you suddenly have a lot less to be angry about. You really get it that there’s so much that happens that you no longer “need” to respond to.
  5. The last step (so far!) has been the work I’ve recently been doing on grounding. My (Donna Eden) energy medicine practitioner realized that a) relatively slight stress, like recalling an unpleasant meeting, could cause me to become ungrounded, and b) even when I was grounded, it wasn’t a stable state. When I asked what could cause these issues, she mentioned trauma, and reminded me, “You didn’t have the best childhood, you know.” Well yes–there was that. Using the same meridians as Traditional Chinese Medicine, she determined where my trigger points were, and devised an exercise for me to do three times a day. (It took a bit more than 10 minutes at first, and now it takes a bit less.) As I understand it, this exercise allowed me to ground myself, break up unhelpful patterns, challenge my grounding, and then immediately re-ground myself. She suggested doing it for two weeks, and ideally 21 days. I scheduled an appointment after about a month, doing the exercise faithfully during the past month. My colleagues were so good as to challenge my grounding quite thoroughly just before my appointment. Whereas before I’d likely have responded appropriately, but felt (and probably also looked and sounded) rattled, after doing this work I was able to be calm both inside and out. My breathing changed, I was definitely irritated, but I stayed grounded throughout. I was able to express my viewpoint calmly and logically, and when I came in the next day, I found the person who’d been trying to weasel out of work in the meeting was actually doing some of it. I considered it a victory all the way around.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I started making in January and finished today called, So you think I have an anger problem. In January, my mood shifted before I could figure out how to make the card successful, and I ended up making a card for Courage instead.

If you’re interested in seeing a Donna Eden energy medicine practitioner yourself, here’s a directory.

The Versatile Blogger award

Versatile

Thanks to Lisa van Reeuwyk of bloomlisa and Blazing Light of Glory for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award! She shares my interest in totem animals, card reading, and spirituality, and is always a bright, optimistic, loving, encouraging voice–and who doesn’t want more of that? I remember seeing someone’s “seven interesting things” post around the time I started blogging in earnest, and thinking this looked like a fun award. So thank you, Lisa–I accept with pleasure.

So here are the requisite seven interesting things about me …

  1. I have no cavities, so I love going to the dentist. My dental hygienist has a great sense of humor–we laugh and laugh, no laughing gas required. No one has a better time at the dentist than I do.
  2. The thing people seem to find most surprising about me is that I don’t watch TV.
  3. It wasn’t too many years after Molly Ringwald moved to Paris that people stopped telling me I looked like her. I love Molly, but I don’t mind not looking like any celebrity at all. (I found being compared to Molly a vast, vast improvement over being told I looked like Laura from Little House on the Prairie as a child.)
  4. Before I knew William Morris had said anything about it, I believed that everything useful should be beautiful, and increasingly, I want the beautiful things I own to be useful as well. There will never be a blue safety check in my life (even as a child, they grated on me–Why so ugly?!). Though I rarely write a check now, I get compliments when I do on my pretty Art Deco ones.
  5. Once I’ve gone to the trouble to find beautiful, useful things, I want them to last. I’m on my third car, and my second cell phone. Planned obsolescence is lost on me.
  6. I am known for my shoes. It’s not an Imelda Marcos situation, but each pair–leopard, polka dots, red patent–makes a statement. Even my gardening clogs are purple. Once a chiropractor prescribed orthopedic inserts for me (another case of the cure being worse than the disease). I mentioned that they wouldn’t work with the vast majority of my shoes; he said I would no doubt start buying shoes they did work with. My mother said, “I don’t think he understands how you feel about shoes.” She was right.
  7. Someone who visited my house not long ago remarked that I had an “antiques fetish.” I protested, pointing out many new items. “Ah, but even your new stuff looks old!” Perhaps it does … perhaps it does.

I’d like to pass this award on to the following versatile bloggers I enjoy …

  • Michelle Hedgecock posts about her art, SoulCollage, animals, nature, clutter clearing–and her experience of all of them. She has a beautiful, loving voice, and isn’t afraid to put herself out there.
  • Dee Mallon posts about her lovely quilting and other textile art, crafting, museum exhibits, makers, travel, gardening, family, photography, SoulCollage, and no doubt more that I’m forgetting! Just about every one of her posts is versatile.

Thanks for all you’re sharing with me, and the world!

How to demonstrate grace under fire

Grace

Last weekend, as I prepared to write this post, I had a couple of ideas in mind. Although this is my 100th post, and also my birthday post, my ideas weren’t ambitious. I knew I’d be out celebrating my birthday most of the weekend, and wouldn’t have much time to write or collage.

But when I sat down to meditate and ask for inspiration (as I almost always do before writing), the Muse clearly had other ideas.

The topic had something to do with my birthday–but what? “What you’ve learned, what you’ve accomplished.”

I wasn’t sure what that might be … but looking back at the year, it did seem the most significant event was that whole mess that started in January …

Great difficulty–handled with grace, the most ever. Outclassed [those who created the difficulty and the others involved].

So, it seemed I had a topic–one I wasn’t terribly sure how to start writing about. I decided to start by making a SoulCollage card on the topic, to help focus my thoughts–and here you see the results. This took me a few days. When I completed the card and read it, this is what it said …

 I am the one who is under pressure–and yet I am calm. Joyful, even. I am vulnerable, and yet I am very, very strong.

In the eye of the storm, I am calm. Why not?

Should you find yourself in great difficulty–and unfortunately I suppose it does come to us all eventually–here are a few ideas that I hope will help you handle it with grace and dignity …

  1. Remaining calm is a truly excellent idea. It allows you to process what’s happening and perceive it clearly without a bunch of upset getting in the way. And it feels (and looks) much better than wigging out. “Keep calm and carry on,” says the mug on my desk. (It’s an unused piece of British WWII propaganda–held in reserve for a serious emergency, and then never used.)
  2. Never let ’em see you sweat. You will no doubt need to vent in private, but remaining calm has the additional benefit of giving less than no satisfaction to anyone who may be attempting to create difficulty for you.
  3. When people come out of the shadows and attack you, they’re giving you a lot of information about who they are. This gives you a kind of power. And you should never forget what you’ve learned.
  4. Don’t allow the noxious weed of resentment to take root in your garden. Justified? Perhaps. But this is your health and wellbeing we’re talking about, not anyone else’s. So the resentment absolutely has to go.
  5. I find it helpful to remember that there are no exceptions to karma. It comes to everyone, no matter how apparently powerful or well-positioned. If someone is treating you unfairly or unjustly, it will most certainly come back to them. I’ve read that this cycle typically occurs in a 5-year timeframe, and my own experience bears that out.
  6. If you’re being wronged, don’t hesitate to defend yourself. Calmly, professionally, inexorably.
  7. When doing so, bear your audience in mind. Some may respond more to a reasoned argument, others more to an honest expression of your feelings.
  8. Be honest, and at the same time, hold something in reserve. You don’t need to tell everything you know or feel. Communicate enough to make your point; what you’ve reserved may come in handy for a rebuttal.
  9. It’s very reasonable to be angry when you’re being treated unfairly. But do yourself the honor of channeling your anger into effective action that furthers your cause, rather than allowing your anger to ineffectively blow up, thus setting you back.
  10. No one else gets to dictate how you feel and what you’re stressed about. That choice is yours.
  11. While you are vulnerable in this world, it’s good to remember when under attack or duress that there are many things you possess that are inalienable and cannot be touched, no matter how dismal another person’s intentions may be. Your eternal soul, and its purpose and accomplishments. All the love you’ve given and received. All the joy you’ve experienced and have yet to experience. The truth of the situation. All of your many choices. All these things are yours.
  12. Take good care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting sleep, good, healthy food, physical activity–all that your body needs. Feed your mind and spirit too. Keep all aspects of your strength up–this is key.
  13. Don’t forget to have fun and do all the things you enjoy.
  14. Take advantage of all of your support systems–your partner if you have one, friends, family, supportive coworkers. And don’t forget your ancestors and all the angels standing by, just waiting to be asked to help.
  15. Strike an effective balance between being high-profile (making your voice heard) and low-profile (flying under the radar).
  16. If you already have your ego in check, you’re at a tremendous advantage in almost any situation over those who don’t–and that’s especially true now.
  17. Every person, and every difficult situation, is different. Please consider these elements potential ingredients in your personal recipe for grace and calm.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made this past week, Grace under pressure.

How to give good advice

Understanding

This weekend, I was asked for advice about what might seem to be a common dilemma. There is a glib, easy, fairly well-accepted answer to this dilemma. But I have my doubts about whether this answer is correct in all cases. Contrarian that I am, the advice I gave was unconventional.

Giving advice is easy–but good advice? That may be a bit more difficult. A few thoughts about how to do it well …

  1. When people ask for advice, I like to respond … but not necessarily with the reinforcement they’re sometimes after. Sometimes offering love and support is all you feel sure of, and I think that’s enough. The friend who asked me for advice asked me to tell her what she already knew, as well as what she didn’t know. I thought that was a great way to ask for advice, because it acknowledges that …
  2. No one person knows everything. It’s very rare to understand the other person’s situation so well that you can recommend unequivocally doing x, y, and z. My response was to mention a couple of perspectives on the issue that might be a bit different than what she was thinking … to turn the question around and examine it from a couple different angles. But ultimately my advice was to go deep within for her answers.
  3. Far from replying with a stock answer, I even supplied a couple of new questions! If you’re like me, you don’t have all the answers to other people’s problems … but if you stick around for awhile and pay attention, you can pick up on a few good questions. One such question is, which way feels like fear, and which way feels like saying Yes to life?
  4. I believe the Divine and an unlimited perspective is within each of us, and that nothing could be more worthwhile than accessing our own deep wisdom, and asking it the most pressing questions we have. I find it helpful to remember that the person asking for advice already has the answers. Perhaps not consciously, very true. But they have access to the facts and emotional truth of the situation (which they may be filtering for a variety of reasons), and usually you the advisor do not. They also have access to their own inmost desires, moral compass, and gut instinct, as well as the ability to attract what they want and need. In other words, every possible tool and resource they need to solve the problem at hand.
  5. So I believe the role of the advisor is to provide support to the decision-making process. Your role might be to relieve the pressure of conventional wisdom, prevailing mores, or the opinions of others … to create some space in which the advisee can begin to take a fresh look at the issue in their own light. You may need to help clear away whatever is obscuring the person’s own truth.
  6. Should you give advice about a situation you’ve never experienced? Recently I was taken to task for doing just that. To me the key is to remember, and this is true whether you yourself have been in the exact situation or not, is that in the vast majority of situations, only the advisee can know what is truly right for them. In this weekend’s case, I hadn’t experienced the exact set of circumstances. But I have been in similar situations, and understood her agonizing and disgust and desire for decisive action very well. I’ve been there, I get that.
  7. I think it’s not imperative to wait to be asked for advice. If you have something you think might be helpful to share, I think it’s fine to offer it. “You know, something that has sometimes been of help to me …”
  8. And of course, you must be completely prepared to have your perfectly good advice ignored or discarded. Give it freely, no strings attached. Perhaps the time may not be right; perhaps the person isn’t really ready to deal with the issue. Perhaps the advice isn’t close enough to where the person is to allow him to grasp it. Whatever the reason, it’s critical to remember that you can only give advice–you can’t implement it. Implementation is entirely down to the advisee.
  9. But, love sent into the world is never wasted.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Understanding + Two paths.

How to get unstuck

winnie-the-pooh-stuck-in-rabbits-house

By chance are you feeling stuck today? Perhaps you know what you need to do, but you’re unsure of the next step. Or perhaps you know the next step, but can’t seem to take it. Maybe you just have an aimless feeling, like your sense of purpose has gone AWOL. Maybe you feel like you’ve been in a rut forever, and don’t know how to get out. Perhaps you find yourself in a liminal stage between an ending and a new beginning, and things aren’t flowing as you’d like. Whatever your level of stuckness, here are some ideas to get you moving in the right direction …

  1. Write down some intentions about what you want your life to look like. Get out your journal–or, if you don’t have one, take a quick trip to the bookstore and treat yourself to a lovely new one in a favorite color. Then open your journal to a blank page, and let your intuition guide you as you write a title. It could be “My intentions for …” or “What I want my life to look like.” Your title could relate to how you feel stuck, or it could relate to something seemingly different. Thoughts about your list may come to you over a few days. Fine-tune it until it really expresses what you want (you may want to copy it out again once you’re done), and then read through it every so often. I like to read through mine before I meditate.
  2. Check your energy flow, and correct it if necessary.
  3. If you’re feeling stuck, you might not be grounded.
  4. Fix something that’s bugging you. WD-40 the creaky door. Pull the weeds you’ve been eyeing. Is a tree seedling or some noxious weed (devil vine is the bane of my existence) sprouting from a seam in your driveway or sidewalk? Boil the teakettle and put a stop to that. (Sometimes it takes more than once, but boiling water always wins.) Kick something ugly to the curb. Say no to something you’ve been asked to do that doesn’t feel right for you. (Don’t you feel better already?)
  5. Clear some clutter. This is a fantastic way to power through a barrier. You’ll get the biggest bang from clearing old and/or negative clutter (i.e., clutter with negative associations for you). Bonus points for clearing clutter directly related to an area where you feel stuck. You may want to identify an area where you can make a significant impact in a reasonable amount of time–an area where you’ve already made a decision about what needs to happen, or where you can make that decision right now.
  6. Try something new today–and if you don’t try new things regularly, begin to make it a habit. (This one step can easily change your whole outlook on life.) Have lunch or dinner at a new restaurant that’s getting good reviews. Try a food or cuisine you’ve never tried before, or a new recipe. Call a friend and have an impromptu picnic, or take a walk, in a park or public garden that’s new to you. Stop in a store that’s caught your eye. Go see that museum exhibit that looks so interesting. Take a weekend road trip to someplace you’ve never been. Take a workshop and learn how to do something you’ve never done before. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, take that first step today. Always wanted to play the piano? Find a teacher and book a lesson. If you’re deciding whether or not to do something, and the no feels like unjustified fear–say yes.
  7. Look around your home for things that belong to someone you used to be. Are there textbooks from the student you used to be? (You’ll never need to know more about the accounting methods of 20 years ago.) Shelves of novels when you’ve stopped reading fiction? Magazines about hobbies you don’t do anymore? A whole wardrobe? Love letters (or hate letters)? What baggage could you release today in order to create space for the you you’re becoming?
  8. Look around your office at work. What’s out of date? What project is every bit as extinct as the dinosaur, but you still have all the paperwork? (Maybe you can let go of all the files for Project Dinosaur, if there’s no company policy that mandates keeping them.) Do you see any paper that’s actually yellowed? This may be a clue.
  9. Add something to your life that will guarantee change, like a new friend, or a new pet.
  10. Slough off your old skin quite literally. Go shopping for a body scrub that smells wonderful, and use it. (Fresh has some lovely products.) Get a pedicure, facial, or massage. Get a haircut. Get your teeth cleaned (it’s good feng shui!).
  11. What do you have that’s expired, past its use-by date? Check the cupboards and medicine cabinet. Find a prescription take-back program (your city or pharmacy may have one), and take advantage of it.
  12. If you’re still not sure what your next step is, ask yourself the question, and go to sleep. See if you don’t wake up with new insight.

 

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 🙂

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