On Clearing Space and Creating Victory

Spirituality, Temple Building, Text Talk, Women's Health

Over on PhYINomenal, Sojo’s self care focus for November is Elimination – time to release, remove, denounce, deny and let go. It’s a great time to release that which no longer serves you and invite in affirming energy, new processes, and transformative experiences.

If you’ve never checked out her site, today’s a great day to do it. Get the self care calendar for November and see what simple things you can do to release the deadweight and bring new life.

Over the years I’ve found myself in that place many times. One time in particular, I was stuck, stagnant and depleted. I needed something, anything, that could help me recharge my life and get inspired again.

I finally realized that I didn’t need to look outside myself for the answers. With patience and intention I could create them for myself. And I did. I spent several weeks enacting some simple practices, not unlike the suggestions Sojo recommends each month. And in short order, I found my joy once again.

I wrote about that experience shortly after it happened. I shared my story and my steps once or twice and then forgot about it. Earlier this year I sat down to dish with Sojo about templebuilding (listen here!), and it all came back to me. I even found the guide I drafted years ago and decided I’d put it out in the world. Eventually.

As it turns out, now is the time! I tried to convince myself to wait until next year, or next month, or next season. Later. But it’s always later. So if there’s one thing I’m working to release this month, it’s Resistance and his twin sister, Procrastination.

As a 42-year old woman who has lost both parents (momma 13 years ago and daddy 10 years next month), I know for sure that time waits for no one and tomorrow is not promised.

I’m not expecting my work to reach a million people, but I do hope it can create value in the life of at least one. If you’re looking to revive your inner beauty, and do it your own way, consider using my guide as companion in your walk. It’s available here.

Let me know how you tap into your creativity and create your next victory.

Another beautiful day

Cotton candy sunrise at the greenway.
North Georgia cotton candy sunrise.

The skies of north Georgia are beautiful. I admit this freely now. I often stop to photograph daybreak and dawn, sunset, dusk and twilight.

As a Georgia native, there were many things I enjoyed outdoors growing up, but I can’t recall appreciating the sky on the fringes of day.

Florida was a different story. I lived there off and on for many years, and 2009 is the first time I recall pausing at the sight of the setting sun.

Driving across a bridge, I witnessed the huge orb sinking below the horizon. Once bright blue sky, now dotted with clouds and awash in orange and purple and pink, I wanted to pull over in awe. Instead I offered prayers of appreciation. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to live amidst such beauty.

Soon after that I created a habit of being outside for sunrise and sunset whenever possible. Backdrops of water were nice, but not required. I ran at first light, and evenings I journaled, took pictures, or simply witnessed beauty.

One day the sunset was so majestic, I rushed back to my apartment to grab my phone. I absolutely had to to share it with my new guy friend, Blue. Serendipitous moment, as he saw a similarly beautiful sunset 500 miles away. He performed some over the shoulder acrobatics to capture his for me. Our sunset texts arrived moments apart.

Yesterday's midday cloud cover.
Yesterday’s midday cloud cover.

The symbolism of our spontaneous exchange was sweet. But I didn’t picture myself appreciating the Georgia sun quite the same as in Florida.

Soon enough, I moved back to the Peach State and I missed Florida’s beauty for months. I was homesick for its breathtaking views, and I did not have a heart of appreciation for my current circumstances.

Finally I remembered I could seek beauty wherever I was. It was easy to find once I looked.

Within days I gave Mother Nature some credit for the green trees everywhere I looked. Later on I found the many birdsongs quite cheerful. I noticed and enjoyed new fragrances and sounds during my outdoor runs. And yes, the sunrises and sunsets were beautiful after all. Even the midday clouds capture my attention now.

The beauty has always been here. Now my heart can see it.

Stream of Consciousness: Planting

Feminist Thought, Spirituality

A bitter heart is fertile ground for the dream of revenge. It can extend beyond heart and mind, into body, into world. Enact the vengeance, and the recipient may agree, yes, this is justice.

Or she may not.

Her family may agree, or they may not. Her friends may agree, or not.

What if?

The wronged heart, too, grows bitter then. Poison cultivates a new dream of revenge. Imagination and courage dance, a perverse action.


Pain inflicted on another.

What if…

Newly wounded burn with anger, rot with pain, and poison the ground for a dream.

And so it is, the potential in actions born of bitterness.

With life comes pain. But in pain, do you seek restoration or destruction?

But what of a family, community, or nation? What is in the heart of those who act on behalf others? Does the seed inspire healing and wholeness? Or hurt?

How do you cultivate your heart? What fruits will it bear?

The Four Agreements

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April, Love, Spirituality

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk had been on my mind earlier this week, and The Four Agreements have now taken up residence in its stead.

I’ve been actively working on unblocking by committing to write, so I’ll take these little bells as encouragement to keep going.

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a short book, based on Toltec Wisdom. In it, he elucidates four agreements, or practices, we can implement daily to enjoy a more fulfilling life.

I’m very consistent on agreements #3 and #4, and I easily redirect myself #2. But I must admit, I abandon the very first one when I’m not careful. That’s the one I’m revisiting  now.

It would be a good exercise to (re)read the book and do some extended writing on each of the four principles. But for now, I’m posting them in their simplest form as a gentle reminder to myself:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best



On living, aging and growing old.

Personal Narrative, Spirituality

It is important to remember that aging and growing old are not necessarily the same. ~Daisaku Ikeda 

I cringe whenever my peers claim they’re getting old. Of course years pass and we physically age, but a lot of what they are claiming is more about mindset than time.

A friend argued that maybe those people are beaten down by life – they’re getting weary, not getting old. Perhaps.

My favorite models in life are my aunts and uncles. Three of them are active on social media and in real life. Here’s a picture:

Uncle Grisby, Auntie Jessie, Cousin Big Sis, Me, Uncle Arnsel. 2011.
Uncle Grisby, Auntie Jessie, Cousin Big Sis, Me, Uncle Arnsel. 2011.

Auntie Jessie, who will be 85 this year, called to wish me a happy birthday Wednesday. When we spoke around 9:30 p.m., she was just getting home after a full day, that started, of course, with yoga in the morning.

I’ve actually never heard her say I’m getting old. Years ago, she told me she knew she’d be around because longevity runs in our family. This was despite the fact that some of her siblings died at or near retirement age. She simply keeps living life to the fullest each day.

I logged into Facebook recently and noticed a conversation between two of my uncles. Live the life of your dreams starting now, wrote Uncle Grisby, age 78. Let the past be the past. Uncle Arnsel, 71, agreed, writing: I wouldn’t tamper with my life. I don’t want to miss out on what I have NOW! 

I agree. There are many past choices I would not make today, but I chose them based on everything I knew about myself and life at that moment. Those choices were also my teachers, and the decisions I make today incorporate the learning of the past. To erase the lessons may erase the past hurts, but doing so would also erase the wisdom that comes in healing.

But what if you’re still suffering from past choices? What if getting old really just means your dreams are slipping away?

If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present. ~Nichiren

Nichiren implies here that not only are the lessons from the past contained in the present moment, but the power to change the present and create a new future are here as well. Youth does not spend its time looking backward, constantly lamenting what if? Youth looks forward, on to the next dream, a new goal, a different adventure.

What is youth? It is the inner strength not to stagnate or grow resistant to change but to stay open to new possibilities. It is the power of the spirit that refuses to succumb to complacency and strives ever forward. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Uncle Grisby was born on leap day, and yesterday he celebrated his 78th birthday. He shared this advice along with the following photo:

Start every day with a smile!!!

laugh every day

Here’s to growing older, while maintaining the spirit of youth.


Plot Twist!

Spirituality, Temple Building

In My Dear Friends in America, Daisaku Ikeda wrote:

“You are the playwright of your own victory.  You are also the play’s hero.  Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players” (As You like It, act II, scene vii, line 139).

Buddhism teaches us that the individual writes and performs the script for his or her own life.  Neither chance nor a divine being writes the script for us.  We write it, and we are the actors who play it.

Despite the fact that we can take responsibility for our lives and plot out the life we’d like to live, there’s no getting around the fact that some things are simply out of our control. Even in a real stage play, props fail, actors forget their lines, and any number of things happen that could disrupt the beauty of a carefully crafted script.

Then what?

It’s a cliché to say attitude is everything, but it certainly does count for quite a bit.

When acting out the drama of your life, sometimes you have to improvise until the story gets back on track.

A word on hope. #NaBloPoMo #Buddhism.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Spirituality, Temple Building

NaBloPoMo March 2013What is your philosophy of life? Does it involve action, momentum, value creation and good cheer? Is it passive, reactive, somber? Quality of life is more about how we decide to live, rather than what happens to us in the living of it. There’s risk in choosing to live optimistically. We can’t predict or control the hurricanes or floods, the disappointing diagnoses, the betrayals. Sometimes we don’t see that knock out punch coming, and there we are dazed, contemplating the wisdom of standing. The decisions we make in difficult moments are grounded in our approach to life.

I advocate a philosophy of hope. It’s funny, because I’ve often said, “hope is not a strategy.” But that’s incomplete. What I mean is hope is not going to write your paper, deliver your presentation, or mend strained relationships. Hope doesn’t take the action steps required for living day-to-day.

But having hope can keep you facing forward, looking on the bright side of a dark moment. It can feed your courage so you can regroup and try again tomorrow. Hope ensures you don’t give up at the crucial moment, when time is still left on the clock.

Hope is for the living.

We must face each issue that crops up, without flinching, solve it, overcome it and move on to the next. That is what human life is really about. That is what it is to be alive. When you triumph over your sufferings, they will all be transformed into joy. And you yourself will grow and expand.

“Despair is the refuge of fools,” goes the saying. As long as you hold on tightly to hope, as long as you take earnest actions to fight, you can be sure that spring will come again. A Russian proverb says, “There is no winter in the kingdom of hope.”

~Daisaku Ikeda in Goya

Present moments and future pleasures. #NaBloPoMo

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Spirituality, Temple Building

Love in the past is a memory. Love in the future is a fantasy.
To be really alive, love — or any other experience —
must take place in the present.
~Jack Kornfield

I don’t want to get too caught up in what’s next. I want to enjoy what’s now. (While still excited about what’s next.)

I’ll admit that’s been hard the past few months. After a period of dormancy, my life is in the full bloom of spring. It’s glorious. I have big plans and I’m working toward them day by day. Still, I find myself saying things like, I can’t wait until

Now, I want to be clear: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being excited about the future, no matter whether future means five years or five minutes. But being too caught up in future happiness – or past, for that matter – makes you miss opportunities for joy and growth in the current moment.

Happiness is not something far away. It is to be found neither in
fame nor in popularity. When you live with integrity,
your hearts begin to fill with a happiness as vast as the universe.
It’s about being true to yourself and starting from where you are.
~Daisaku Ikeda

Where are you?
There’s risk living fully in the present moment. You have to be open. Vulnerable. You have to face life as it is, not as you would have it be, or as it used to be. It requires acknowledgment. Discernment. And it’s a balancing act, really. Reflecting on past moments, looking forward to future moments, all while living in the now, is more than a notion.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

That’s really a challenge if you feel your life is a smidgen too far from perfect. Why focus energy here and now, when you really want to just hurry up and get to happily ever after? And if life is good now, but better is just around the corner, it’s easy to want to rush time along.  Funny thing, time.  You can’t get to future moments without experiencing this one. And because the chain of cause and effect is never broken, the way you experience the future is predicated, in large part, on the way you frame your present adventures.

Mindful moments.
One way I’ve remained mindful of (and grateful for) present moments, is by adding to my joy jar. I could do this more often, and I’m writing about it now as a gentle reminder to myself.  Another strategy I implement is listing. I jot down small, specific tasks I want to accomplish in a short period (one day or two), and check them off as I go.  It’s simple, but it allows me to see and appreciate constant progress, and consequently build momentum.

I also enjoy simple things like outdoor exercise, sitting in the sun, stretching, or salt baths. These all help me slow down and notice what’s going on right now. They also help me listen to my body, which whispers its need of rest or better nutrition before turning to drastic measures like illness or injury.

vorfreudeCultivate your life.
My aunt is a Master Gardener. And no matter how excited she is about her future blossoms, there’s no escaping today’s work of tilling the soil, planting and pruning as the case may be. She enjoys the work of gardening (even the setbacks), the anticipation, and the fruits of her labor.

And so it can be with us.

I Gave Up.

Productivity, Spirituality, Temple Building

So it happened. I gave up.

I run 50 miles a month. I’ve hit the magic number a few times now, but I knew October would be difficult.

October was wonderful and busy and challenging, due in no small part to time in planes, rental cars and hotels. Traveling put a cramp in my otherwise clearly delineated exercise schedule. Treadmills? Yuck. Four a.m. wake up calls to get everything in? Definitely not. I decided to just run my miles whenever I could, and I’d adjust as needed. No ink on the calendar this month. Pencil only. Just in case.

Early on, I accomplished two amazing personal victories, yet I was already behind.

I made it halfway to my goal just after mid October. Yet as I counted the sunrises and tallied the miles, I lamented:

  A few days later:

And at some point I came to believe there were too many miles and not enough days remaining. Tired from the wear and tear of the month, I embraced inflexibility and pessimism. I decided there was nothing more I could do.

I gave up.

And I sat with that for a moment, that spirit of gave up. I realized two things. One, it didn’t suit me just then. Gave up felt like a stranger invading. Unwelcome. What have I been doing all these years, if not training myself for perseverance? Two, it didn’t make sense! It was definitely possible I would not reach my goal, but why in the hell was I giving up the game when there was time left on the clock?

“Even if things don’t unfold the way you expected,
don’t be disheartened or give up.

One who continues to advance will win in the end.”
~Daisaku Ikeda

I had time and determination left. And the only way I’d know if I had enough of either was to keep striving. I erased a few items on my schedule, realizing I was going to have to release the less important ones to keep my primary goal in focus.

Down to 10 miles, I had choices. Stick with my typical four milers and somehow squeeze in a shorter run? Or go for the five-mile barrier I hadn’t challenged in 18 months?

My next time out, I finished four and checked in with myself as I cooled down. I can do one more mile, I thought as I stretched one of my quads. I have the time. I have the energy… Let’s do it!

And out I went, for another mile. I hit five that day. Then, in a moment of inspiration, ran five again the next.

Finished my goal with two days to spare. The goal I was ready to shelve. I finished it. Early. This taught me something…

Sometimes it seems unlikely we’ll meet a goal. And if we’re tired or run down, it’s easy to say it’s not worth the effort to continue. And sometimes, for many reasons, that might honestly be the best choice. But check your gut and your resources first. Because here’s the thing: If the clock hasn’t run out yet, it’s not time to give up.

Beyond the Bright Side | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

30 Day Blog Challenge, Spirituality, Temple Building

Success is not a matter of accumulating more of this or that; it is not measured in quantity. It means changing the quality of your life. Wealth, power, fame and knowledge alone cannot make you happy, no matter how much of these you acquire. Nor can you take them with you when you die. But by improving the quality of your life you will at last approach true happiness. ~Daisaku Ikeda

But how does one change the quality of life? Lots of guidance encourages us to remain steadfast in difficult times; refuse to give up during challenging circumstances. Some people mistake this kind of rhetoric to mean just look at the bright side. This understanding is inaccurate, or at the very least, incomplete. The better reading is that you should become the bright side. It means build the kind of core, that regardless of your surroundings, you can maintain hope and cheer. Furthermore, actively radiate that cheerful, hopeful state of life in the actions you take to change your surroundings for the better.

Easier said than done.

One way to build this kind of core is through a practice of gratitude. Far from something “hokey” or “mystical,” it’s a grounded practice of being present and appreciating even the slivers of goodness in daily life. This does not mean you don’t notice when things are awry. This does not mean you can only see the glass as half full. But it does mean that even if your glass is half empty, you can be thankful for the half that remains. And as a second step, take action to help make fuller glasses more likely in the future. Anyone can sit back and complain, but how does that improve quality of life?

Developing a solid state of life is not a spectator sport. It’s an act of creation. We witness. We appreciate. We build.