02-02-2022

Dates like today make me happy. Not sure why, but they do!  I googled the meaning of multiple ‘2’s and this is what popped up: “… a reminder that you are on the right path and doing the right things in life. This number is also a sign of positivity, good luck, and joy.”  Ironically, when I sat down to write today, I was planning to write about my “word of the year.”  At the beginning of January when I picked my “word of the year”, the word that popped into my head was “positivity!”  I made this Zentangle and hung it on my refrigerator where I can see it every day. 

I truly believe that positivity is a state of mind.  I choose to be positive.  It’s not that every day is filled with rainbows and butterflies, but I choose not to dwell on the negative.  I choose to expect that good things will happen.  And when they don’t, I try not to replay what happened over and over.  I try to let it go and refocus on something that makes me feel good. 

In my Koru teacher training class, the instructor told us a story about letting go that really resonated with me:

Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman waiting to cross. Scared of the current, the young women asked if one of the monks could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and then departed.

As the monks continued their journey, the other monk become obsessed and preoccupied with his own thoughts. Unable to hold his silence any longer he spoke out. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any and all contact with women, but you picked that young women up and onto your shoulders then carried her across the river, breaking this most sacred rule”

“Brother,” the second monk calmly replied, “this happened many, many miles back, it was I who carried the young women and it was I who placed her down on the other side, over an hour ago. So why, brother, are you still carrying her?

Author: Unknown

Is your glass half full or half empty?   Mine is half full and tastes delicious! 

Lessons from 2021

My mother told me that my grandma Jennie had a Yiddish saying: “Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.”  Translation: Man plans and God laughs.  If I replace “mentsh” with “froy” (woman), that would describe my year. 

In the first few months of 2021, I was adjusting to ‘retirement’.  After 25+ years at IBM followed by 10 years at Binghamton University, not having to set an alarm in the morning was refreshing!  But, as a dear friend pointed out, it was also a time of grieving.  I was grieving my former self and losing that part of my life.  It was an emotional rollercoaster that was eased, for sure, by my mindfulness practices.  When I felt myself drifting into anger, sadness, denial (yes, stages of grief), I would notice and gently (most of the time) pull myself back to the present where everything was really ok.  I noticed that my funky moods didn’t last quite as long as they might have in the past. 

April brought another move for my mom, downsizing her apartment which meant getting rid of more ‘stuff’.  Amazing how attached we get to ‘stuff’.  So many memories.  But, I realized that although the stuff is gone, our memories remain and that, too, is ok. 

We moved mom two more times this year: to assisted living and most recently to skilled nursing.  These moves were emotional as we continued to downsize and part with belongings.  I was reminded again and again to let go of attachment and of the impermanence of everything. 

All we have is here and now.  The more easily we adjust to change, the more resilient we become and the quicker we can return to equilibrium.  We keep coming back, again and again. 

One of my favorite quotes (just learned credit goes to Ralph Waldo Emerson … thanks, Google!) is “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  We are here to learn.  If we pay attention, the lessons are all around us. It is up to us to recognize them and learn from them. 

2021 was a challenging year, but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned.  May 2022 bring light and peace and maybe a few easier lessons (please!) for us all! 

Tis the season … to live consciously

The holiday season is supposed to be “merry and bright”.  So, why do I start feeling a tightness in my stomach and a mild sense of dread this time of year?  Is it because the days are getting shorter and the to-do list is getting longer?  Is it because I tend to sleep-walk thru the holidays doing what is ‘expected’ with a forced gaiety?  Is it because I don’t stop to reflect on what this season is really about … feeling grateful for my many blessings, reflecting on how I lived this past year, thinking about how I want the next year to unfold and how to live my life with integrity and purpose? 

I think it is all of the above, but this year feels different.  One of the things I’ve practiced this year is based on a quote by Eckert Tolle in The New Earth: “If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others.”  So, for example, instead of resenting what I feel like I must do, I examine it and make a conscious decision that if I do it, I will do it with acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm.  I stop fighting with myself and grumbling under my breath or to others.  I try to do it with grace and ease.  (It doesn’t always work, but that’s why I practice!) 

I am practicing living consciously.  Bringing myself back to the present moment when I notice I am drifting into the past or future.  Noticing my negative thoughts and questioning them.  Reminding myself of Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements (which if you haven’t read, you should!) : “Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take anything personally, Don’t make assumptions & Always do your best.”  I don’t always abide by the agreements, but I do try to recognize when I stray and remind myself to keep trying. 

I am a work-in-progress and that is AOK!

Connections

My greatest joy when I was working at Binghamton University was the connections that I made with my students.  I loved our conversations.  I loved hearing their perspectives and ideas about the world and their lives.  I loved sharing my stories and, perhaps, a different perspective.  I loved laughing with them and learning from them.  It is what I miss most about not being there.  

Last night I had a mini-reunion via Zoom with some of my former students.  It was so wonderful to see their beautiful faces and hear about their adventures.  I felt such joy!  It reminded me how important it is to connect with people who bring us joy.  It doesn’t really matter whether we connect in person or over the airwaves.  It matters that we connect.  That we take that time to reach out and connect with people who infuse us with joyful and positive energy.  

I am still smiling and feel so grateful to stay connected to these amazing young adults!  I look forward to staying in touch and celebrating their journeys wherever they may lead!  

Reflections on acceptance and forgiveness

Sundown tomorrow through sundown Thursday is the Jewish Day of Atonement.  This is the day when we reflect on the past year, ask forgiveness from those we have hurt, offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us, knowingly or unknowingly and vow to do better in the coming year. 

As I sat to meditate today, I thought about forgiveness, and I thought about a guided meditation that I came across several years ago by Dr. Lissa Rankin.  The meditation was called “I Accept”.  She starts by stating that “…all suffering comes from our failure to accept what is.”  That was a real brain-twister for me when I first heard that, and I had to think about it for quite a while.  I finally saw that when you really get down to it, it is true.  We suffer when we resist what is happening. But, when we accept what is, we can start to release our fear and hurt and pain.  We can face reality and make choices about how to react and respond. 

We suffer when we don’t accept another person’s behavior.  We replay the hurt and resentment and memories.  It weighs us down.  It holds us back.  Once we accept that another person’s behavior is based on their own story and past and baggage that they carry, we can release judgement and stop taking it personally. That does not mean we have to condone the behavior or engage with it.  We can express how we feel.  We can choose to establish boundaries.  We can choose to walk away.

I think that acceptance and forgiveness are tightly linked.  Once we accept someone as they are and respond in the way that feels right to ourselves, we can begin to forgive.  We can be set free of the heaviness of our feelings and heal those wounds.  We can forgive ourselves for mistakes we have made and people we may have hurt through our words and actions.  

May this day of atonement bring acceptance, forgiveness, and peace to everyone everywhere.  Amen. 

Reflections and gratitude

Sometimes the road I am traveling gets bumpy.  Sh*t happens.  Loved ones need more care and attention.  My mindfulness practice reminds me to take a breath when I feel overwhelmed.  I come back to now and think to myself that … ‘All is well. I am safe’.   

Expressing gratitude is another wonderful practice. I remind myself how grateful I am for … 

  • so much wonderfulness in my life
  • knowing that If I take things one step at a time, everything will get done
  • my amazing, caring friends who check in to see how I’m doing and let me know they are thinking of me
  • the beautiful moon that is always there, even when clouds are blocking my view
  • the peace I feel when I am at my ‘happy place’ (Silver Lake)

Take a moment today to breath consciously and express gratitude!  

Everyone can meditate!

When I tell people that I teach meditation, a common response I hear is “I tried to meditate and I just can’t do it. I can’t stop thinking.”   Well, guess what?  Everyone can learn to meditate!  All you need to do is WANT to learn and practice!    

The biggest misconception people have is that when you meditate you stop all thoughts and make your mind go blank.  That is virtually impossible.  Our brains are wired to think.  When we learn to meditate, we learn to observe our thoughts and let them go.  We focus our attention on an anchor (for example: our breath, a word or phrase, an image) and when we notice that our mind has wandered, we gently bring our attention back to our anchor.  I know…easier said than done.  But, like any new skill that you want to learn, you need to practice.  The more you practice, the easier it becomes. 

I have been meditating for several years and it amazes me how much easier it is to quiet my mind. When I notice myself repeating and rehashing the same thoughts over and over, I pause and come back to the present moment where everything is exactly as it is.  So much more peaceful to live in the present moment. Give it a try!  

Please contact me if you are interested in learning: wdnbus@gmail.com

Steering in the right direction

The other day I got into my car to head to an appointment.  Before I realized what I was doing, I found myself heading instead to Wegman’s.  It was like my car was on autopilot.  Actually, it was like I was on autopilot.  Where was my mind?  Certainly not on the task at the hand.  It was more likely going over something that happened earlier or thinking about something in the future.  I was clearly NOT focused on what I was doing.    

Most people spend a lot of time thinking about the past or future.  We are reviewing things that annoyed us, people who wronged us, what we could have or should have said. Or maybe we are reminiscing about someone or something that we miss.  I know that I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about what I need to do, planning and worrying about outcomes. But the reality is that the past is gone, and the future hasn’t happened yet.  The only thing that is real is right here and right now.  The present moment. 

This is where mindfulness comes in.  Mindfulness is the practice of noticing when our thoughts are focused anywhere else but in this moment.  It is called a practice because it does not come naturally to most people.  We need to train our “mindfulness muscle” to observe when our thoughts are straying and then kindly and without judgement bring ourselves back to this moment.  Each time we become aware that we are caught up anywhere but here, we simply redirect our attention to the present moment. 

Sound challenging?  It is!  But the more we practice, the easier and sooner we notice when we are lost in thought so we can steer ourselves back to now.  There are so many benefits of being mindful and in the moment.  For me, I feel much calmer. I spend less time tied up in knots about something that is over and done with or hasn’t happened yet and more time enjoying what I am doing. 

Give it a try. The next time you get in the car to go somewhere, be fully in the car and notice everything about the experience of driving and getting to where you are heading.  When you have a snack, try eating it without any other distractions.  Notice the crunch of the nuts or the sweetness of the grape.  When you wash your hands, be aware of how nice the warm water feels and give your fingers a gentle massage.  This moment is the only thing that is truly real, so I invite you to practice being present and see how you feel.  And, please let me know if I can help you learn how to be more mindful! 

Happy “Pop Day” !

I love spring!  I love everything about it … even the rain!  I love watching nature come alive.  Listening to the birds chirping with excitement.  Seeing the grass turn green again.  Watching the crocuses and daffodils bloom.  It is amazing to experience and one of the things I love most about being in a climate with distinct seasons.  Spring can be fickle … 70s one day and snow flurries the next.  But, it is all ok because it builds the anticipation of warm, sunny summer days. 

When I was growing up, my bedroom window looked out to the giant oak tree in front of my house.  The window was eye-level with the branches of the tree.  At the start of spring, I would look out my window each day, waiting for tiny buds to appear on the tree.  I would watch, sometimes impatiently, for that day each year when I would open my window shade, look out and see actual leaves on the tree.  It seemed to happen overnight, usually after a good rain. I named that day “Pop Day”.  That was the day that, lo and behold, the world was green again.  I would walk around all day smiling and humming and feeling happy and in-tune with nature.  I would marvel at the pure magic of that day.  When my children were young, I told them about “Pop Day” and have fond memories of that day each year when we would announce to one another … Happy Pop Day!   

Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. Being fully present.  Noticing the world around you.  Paying attention to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations.  When we are mindful, we notice things that we overlook and ignore when we are lost in thoughts about the past or future.  Take some time today to go outside and look around.  Notice the grass and the trees and flowers popping up.  Smell spring.  Listen closely to the sounds of spring.  And when you do, wish yourself and the world a Happy Pop Day! 

Day before birthday reflection

As I wrap up my sixty-first year on earth, I am reflecting on my life’s journey and feeling grateful for all the lessons I have learned along the way.  Sixty-one years.  That number feels surreal to me. 

At yoga today, the instructor was talking about the miracle of our bodies.  It’s so true.  My heart has been beating non-stop (thankfully) for almost 62 years!  Think about that!  I don’t own anything that has lasted that long.  My skin has kept my insides safe and protected.  My neck has held my head up.  My legs have carried my wherever I have schlepped my body.  An absolute miracle.  When I get a cut on my finger, it heals!  All I have to do is feed it, hydrate it and let it rest.  It takes care of the rest.  Amazing! 

A birthday is a wonderful time to stop for a few moments to reflect on the miracle of life and all that it encompasses. To give thanks for not just the wonder of my body, but also, and maybe especially, my soul.  For the ability to love.  For the ability to forgive.  For the ability to accept.  For resilience in the face of challenges.  For all of it!   And to remind myself, again, that today is the first day of the rest of my life!