Sunday, September 29, 2013

"tonight all is silence in the world as we take our stand....."

"Those who do not weep, do not see."- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

We create our own distance from others. Either we refuse to acknowledge viewpoints other than our own or we deny others human dignity. We rationalize events as insignificant or we simply pretend people don't exist. We desensitize and dehumanize. We perpetuate our lack of empathy when we continuously read or hear of "Gunmen in Nigeria Kill  21 Sleeping Students" , " 67 Die in Kenyan Mall Siege" or" Bus Blast in Pakistan Kills 17". "They" are barbarians, "they" don't believe what we believe, "they" must all deserve what happened to them. Unless tragedy knocks on your own door, a statistic remains a statistic. We know there was a living, breathing human life behind each news headline number, a man, woman or child who felt love, hate, passion and pain but we distance ourselves. We ignore or push away the incredible sadness to avoid thinking of our own mortality. 
Feeling that emptiness and sadness is an essential part of our own humanity. Writer, actor, comedian and gifted storyteller Louis CK  shares a personal poignant moment of his own human experience in the video above.

“Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities.”  penned Daisetsu Teitaro (D.T) Suzuki,  Japanese author of books and essays on Buddhism, Zen and Shin. Suzuki was instrumental in spreading interest in both Zen and Shin (and Far Eastern philosophy in general) to the West.  Perhaps those infinite possibilities include understanding our own painful life lessons, acknowledging our fear and loneliness. Our shared perceptions and ideas have the ability to ease the suffering of others. Infinite possibilities include our own visions and insights, finding beauty and purpose in the world and most importantly the deep healing wisdom of storytelling and humor.

 (below is a link to six ideas for inspiring empathy)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"all that is gold does not glitter..."

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose     

Tania Luna calls herself a “surprisologist.” The co-founder and CEO of Surprise Industries, Luna uses her energy and insight to deeply reflect on how to delight and assist individuals and teams thrive in uncertain circumstances. She helps people develop the bonds needed to get through challenging times. As part of her TEDTalk she describes her early childhood with a sense of gratitude we greatly admire but few of us will ever truly grasp. During her program for TED’s Worldwide Talent Search in 2012,  Luna's audience anticipated a lively talk about surprise and the importance of not being attached to outcomes.  Instead, she was inspired to give the world a gift of  her personal story. Many of her closest friends didn’t even know about her Ukrainian family getting asylum in the United States when she was 6-years-old or arriving in New York with virtually nothing.  Tania Luna sees her work as connected to her upbringing one in which a little piece of Bazooka bubble gum, a thrown-out toy or a delivered pizza became magical. These were the childhood memories that gave her an appreciation for the joy of little surprises. If you haven't already, please take a moment to watch her inspiring TEDTalks presentation in the video above. It is a story of hope and gratitude you will never forget. 

How do we show appreciation for our abundance? What is gratitude? Gratitude is the quality of being thankful for what you already have in your life. So many of us struggle with the material wants of life. We want to keep up with our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers and society. We want the newest SUV. We want the newest smartphone. We want the newest tablet. We want the newest designer coat. We want. We want. We want. But why do we want these things? Why do we feel the need to fill up our lives with more and more material possessions when we don't even appreciate what we currently own? What is our attachment to the material? Do we know abundance without the material?  Do we appreciate  our health, wealth, loved ones or the ordinary possessions we own? Do we appreciate the pizza, stuffed animals, Bazooka bubble gum moments enough? This is a question we all have to contemplate and answer for our ourselves. As we plan our lives, professions and relationships based on what we want to own, we should equally reflect on why we feel we need to own them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life...."

The word 'happiness' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."-Carl Jung       

      What are the habits of happy resilient people? Strange question? Not really considering we live on a planet where cynicism is applauded and pessimism is the accepted norm. And I understand the reasoning. Injustice and tragic circumstances are inflicted upon innocent people who did absolutely nothing wrong. We are all exposed, we absorb the violence and horrific stories of the world stage. We get angry, we cry, we question and we reflect. The powerful play must go on.  How we choose to process and use emotions and information to move forward  can set us apart. On a scale of positive to negative we may encounter the full range of emotions on a daily basis.  But what makes some human beings consistently more positive than others? What do most optimists have in common?  Earlier this morning, I read an article based on research by American psychologist and author  Dr. Marty Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness. Seligman has penned over twenty books and 200 articles on motivation, optimism, pessimism and personality.

 There are numerous traits that happy people share. According to Seligman, clinical psychologists and researchers the three major factors contributing and sustaining happiness are made up of pleasure, engagement, and meaning. It involves both daily positive emotions and a universal sense that life is worthwhile. Most importantly, people can accurately define and report their own levels of happiness. Do you consider yourself  positive and content?  Answer the questions below to discover if you are creating enough space in your life to allow real happiness to flourish.

Do you appreciate simple pleasures? Do you love to listen to children laughing on a playground? Do you relish the feeling of a cool autumn wind on your skin? Do you drink in the bright beautiful gold, orange and sunshine yellow of a glorious fall day? Do you get a sense of awe walking your dog, observing how they stop, sniff and inhale the scent of fragrant rose bushes? Being in the moment and fully embracing the simple treasures of every day life is a sign of a truly happy person.

Do you laugh? Do you have a sense of humor? Do you have the ability to laugh at your self or chuckle over the absurdity and irony of life? Laughter is a strong emotional release that relieves tension and stress but it also allows us to cope with the more serious issues of daily existence It puts our situation into perspective. If you need more laughter in your life, watch a funny movie, go to a comedy club, listen to your favorite comedian.

Do you love music? Most people can't even imagine life without the power of music. Those that worship its pure expressive force know the incredible effect music has on mood, memory and emotions. Happy people love and enjoy music. They may even make music, play an instrument or just sing out loud in the shower.

Do you look on the bright side? Are you an optimist? Do you anticipate a more positive outcome over a negative one? Do you see the silver lining rather than just the rain clouds? Optimists are happier simply because they change their thought patterns. All of us have the ability to do this. Where a pessimist may think, "this is going to be horrible"  an optimist thinks "what can I do to learn  and make the best from this?"

Do you listen? Do you ignore the world around you while you talk on your cell phone? When someone asks you a question do you  seem surprised and say "What? I didn't hear you?" Do your friends, spouse, children or co-workers get annoyed with you because you promised to do something and later admit you actually weren't listening? Why do happy people listen? Listening shows respect for others. It means you are actually thinking of something besides your self and your own needs. This leads to another closely related question.

Do you give to others?  Research studies such as "Americans Changing Lives" have proven that people who volunteer or contribute to charity organizations are happier than those who don't.  According to documentation submitted to the long term project people who think about the needs of others increase their own mental and physical health. Giving and thinking of others increases empathy and awareness.

Do you let yourself lose track of time? Most of us have heard the expression "lost in the moment" or being "in the zone".  Being absorbed in a creative, challenging or rewarding endeavor can help us lose track of time and help us gain our "flow". Happy people seek the sensation of being caught up in the moment and forgetting their self-consciousness.

Do you unplug? Happy people know that in order to give to others they have to take time for themselves. Recharging batteries isn't just for cell phones and computers. Turning off and tuning in to a quiet, peaceful place inside your mind will make you happier in the long run. You will be able to cope with the day to day stress of giving to others, feeling less drained.

Do you avoid small talk?  Happy people are less likely to gossip or spread rumors about others. They simply don't feel the need to fill up a perfectly lovely silence with meaningless chatter. Happy people are more apt to give positive affirmations than shell out negative self-defeating smack talk. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all is the motto.

Other important factors closely related to personal happiness are spirituality, exercise, sleep habits and going outside to enjoy nature. It's important to remember that happy people are not ignorant, naïve or hiding their true emotions. Most "happy" people have known great sadness, understand tragic loss, grief and have even experienced bouts of severe depression. Optimists have been successful in turning their pain and negativity into courage and positive gratitude. Happy people seem to have a sense they are connected to something larger than themselves.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"here comes the sun and I say, it's all right...."

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Marquez- author of One Hundred Years of Solitude

     One hundred journal entries ago I had an epiphany about the direction of my life. And it was this; "What the hell are you waiting for?" There is no "perfect" time to pursue your passions. Either you do or you don't. Either you do what you love and give 100% or you continue to suffer. You live with regret. No one else is responsible for your suffering but you, change. There are members of my family that haven't read a single entry on this website. They have no idea that this blog is maybe one percent of what I actually write and create. Validation. We need to let go of the idea of validation.  Exceptionally intelligent, motivated, successful adults I know and love personally cannot psychologically move forward because they were never validated by family, society, friends, or their children in some way. Holding on to the idea that you need every ones approval will mentally and creatively destroy you. Every one has a need for acceptance. We all want to be loved. We want to be appreciated. We also want to be authentic and true to ourselves. If people really love you, I mean truly, honestly love you, they want you to be happy. The sacrifice begins and ends with you.

     To honor my 100th blog entry I've decided to write a letter to my one hundred year old future self. Some of my relatives are laughing right now thinking, " Hell, there is NO WAY she is going to live to see one hundred."  To be fair they know the full scope of my "health' habits. To put this all in perspective one hundred will be over fifty-five years away or realistically another entire lifetime from right NOW.

   Dear Lisa,
       In the heroic words of one Mr. Barry Manilow  may I humbly say,.."looks like we made it" baby. It's a good thing you gave up smoking and polishing off a box of Cheeze-Its every other night. But then what the hell? You even ran a few 5K's. You know what really kept you in shape was finally convincing that young hot n' sexy actor Tom Hardy to marry you after becoming a best selling author and millionaire in your forties. What incredible memories you're going to replay in your mind as you sit in your retirement community watching all your adorable rescued cocker spaniels run wild n' free in the yard. Of course you still play Bingo with your eighty year old nieces, nephews and their children and their children's' children when they come to visit once a year. They wouldn't miss playing for a one hundred dollar bill prize or a set of keys to a brand new Jaguar. Needless to say winning that Publishers Clearinghouse cash helped a lot too. Remember right after you first won 5,000.00 a week you and your niece moved to Charlotte and bought and drove for the Roush Fenway Racing Team?  After each victory you donated your earnings to all the causes you care about so deeply and the charities you love, paid off  your brothers and sisters debts, provided them and their children with whatever their hearts desired and even built a chocolate factory that some of them managed for you. Good times. But I digress.
      So you  remember that blog you started because you wanted to "express" yourself? Well, that was a great idea. One of your favorite quotes by Lao-Tzu has always been " the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step..."   Philosophically speaking despite all the shit you still had an amazing life. No regrets.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"There goes my hero. Watch him as he goes.There goes my hero. He's ordinary...."

"As far as service goes, it can take the form of a million things. To do service, you don't have to be a doctor working in the slums for free, or become a social worker. Your position in life and what you do doesn't matter as much as how you do what you do."- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

        "Every day hero." Most of us have read or heard the expression. Few of us believe it applies to us.  After we rise each morning we are faced with a multitude of choices affecting our destiny. Today you woke up angry after fighting a terrible nights sleep. Tossing and turning, you worried about mounting debt and paying bills. Tense, you yell at your spouse who then becomes bitterly flustered and upset. They take their frustrations out on the children who then carry that anger to school and bully their classmates. One morning you wake up after a peaceful beautiful dream. You lovingly kiss your spouse and children before leaving home. At your favorite coffee shop you smile contently while tipping the server more than usual and complement a stranger sitting in the cafe alone. When you actually break down your seemingly ordinary every day interactions and become consciously aware of how you choose to treat others it's difficult to ignore need or turn away from pain. There are no small actions. Every day we take our simple ordinary choices and our own loved ones for granted. Most of us will never fully appreciate what we have in our lives until we are forced to lose it all. For some living with persistent personal tragedy or a life altering disability is unimaginable. Life is hard. Life is a heroic struggle full of obstacles we must overcome. Day to day, life is an endless cycle of suffering for millions of human beings. So when we unearth the hidden treasure of  purpose, fulfillment or happiness or even catch a brief brilliant glimpse of meaning shining in anothers eyes we need to see it as the extraordinary gift it really is.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying  “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  Life is a miraculous cosmic ballet of which you are the ordinary dancing hero.

      One day you too may become awestruck by the amazing accomplishments of an "every day hero" or even marvel at a hero dog. September has been named National Service Dog Month  and while guide dogs are the main focus of National Service Dog Month this year will also highlight dogs who assist our brave service men and women both on and off the battlefield. Military Service or Working Dogs are unbelievably courageous canines who put their lives on the line in order to protect military posts, detect explosives and sniff out contraband. Companion animals prescribed to U.S. military veterans for various physical and psychological conditions, including traumatic brain injuries, mobility issues, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, are at the center of the awareness campaign this year. The video below is an example of  "every day heroes" in action.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Soak it all in. It's a game you can't win. Enjoy the ride...."

“Mind is all that counts. You can be whatever you make up your mind to be.”-
Robert J. Collier.

      “People used to laugh at me when I walked around tracks trying to pass out my business card" professional race car driver, Carl Edwards has often recounted. Even though pursuing his life long dream presented struggles and uncertainties from the beginning with patience and endurance he has managed to witness his racing career flourish. Edwards inspiring story is just one of many talented athletes, writers, authors, musicians and entrepreneur's  who persevere despite obstacles they may face. If you have a dream you must be focused and doggedly determined. As long as you live you are capable of trying. Dreams are what keeps us all going. We are stronger and more capable than we think or ever allow ourselves to imagine.
     The now notoriously famous and brilliant director Steven Spielberg supposedly dropped out of high school, re-entered and was then placed in a learning-disabled class. Only after moving to a new city and getting into a better school did he finally graduate. Shortly after he was denied entrance into the film school at the University of Southern California, not once but twice. In spite of these setbacks he went on to direct some of the biggest blockbusters of all time such as E.T, Schindler's List, and most recently the Oscar winning Lincoln.

   Michael Jordon is widely considered one of the best and most admired athletes of all time but few people know he was actually cut from his high school basketball team.

     Renowned author, J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame was penniless, divorced, raising a child on her own, suffered from depression and depending on welfare to survive before she became one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years. Through her hard work, determination and belief in herself and her own dreams her books will live in the minds and hearts of millions.
     We have to know and understand what makes us happy in order to keep our dreams alive. What is your definition of success? Don't let anyone else define your dream for you. And when you feel like you are unsupported or filled with doubt, quiet your mind. Inspiration is every where from the book passages you read, the songs you hear, the people you talk to and the events you attend. Listen for it. Look for it. Believe in yourself. Never give up.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life."

“A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.”
Elizabeth Parker, Paw Prints in the Sand     
      Please, do not support puppy mills.

      The month of September has been officially designated "Puppy Mill Awareness Month". A puppy mill is a commercial dog breeding facility that is operated with an emphasis on profit above animal welfare. The term can be applied to operations involving other animals commercially bred for profit, for example "kitty mills". There are an estimated 4,000 puppy mills in the United States that produce more than half a million puppies a year. Commercial kennels may be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture which may inspect the kennels.

     Puppy mills house dogs in deplorable overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The animals go without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not receive adequate attention, exercise or even basic grooming. To minimize waste cleanup, dogs and puppies are often kept in cages with wire flooring which injure their paws and damage legs. Cages are cruelly stacked up in columns. Breeder dogs at mills spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements, or kept inside indoor cages all of their lives. Commonly, after a breeder dog has reached four years of age, it is no longer needed and killed.
Ensure that your local pet stores are not selling puppies from puppy mills. You can contact a community pet store directly or go online to check your own state at the link below.

Contact your federal legislators and let them know that you're concerned about the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills and want the puppy mill issue to be a priority for Congress. Ask them to expand the reach of the Animal Welfare Act to include kennels that sell large numbers of puppies directly to the public.
Additional information regarding puppy mills and animal advocacy can be found here:

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
-Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)

Thank you for being their voice.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"we'll reach you if you're beyond the furthest star..."

      Light a candle, recite a poem, sing a song, say a prayer, hold a memory close to your heart.  Tuesday, September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.

 Although not all of us know what it truly feels like to lose a friend or loved one to suicide, most of us know someone who has. Not all of us will ever fully understand the overwhelming depths of depression but most of us have felt great sadness or despair. We may not know how to articulate comforting words but we must be willing to offer support, kindness and compassion. We must never be afraid or ashamed to talk openly and honestly about severe depression or suicide. With education and awareness we can learn to help ourselves and others. Millions of  people struggle with asking for help. They fear how they will appear to others. Many adults and especially teenagers believe they will be stigmatized or rejected by their families or society if they reveal their depression. They don't want their peers to think they're weak or unable to handle their own mind and emotions. Many people will end up isolated and alone or develop an unhealthy talent for pretending everything is fine. It takes tremendous courage and strength to be who you are. You are incredibly brave if you ask for help when you need it most. Equal to our love and compassion must be acceptance. Take a moment to reach out to someone who may be struggling. Listen to them. Just listen. Listen with your heart. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to feel what they are feeling. Don't  talk over them. Don't drown out their voice with your own. Don't try to define, judge or lecture. Don't try to solve, resolve or give advice.  Just listen. Listen with the fullness of your heart and soul to the powerful echoes of your shared humanity.

BEYOND THE GRAY SKY- lyrics by 311

It is a gift I know
A moment of bliss that we hold
A firecracker flash of light then on
To the next plane soul remain
Come along if you dare
It's gonna be that you're scared
Lovely life I thank you
For the reason to see the pain through

Light a candle for the dead
The wick is burning returning what we have
It's who we are
We'll reach you if you're beyond the furthest star

Don't give up the fight to stay alive and even if
you have to
Find the reason of another's pain if they lose you
If not for your self then those around who care
like I do
One day you'll see the clear blue

Beyond the Gray Sky
Light a candle...
The wick...
It's who we are...

One day you will see the clear blue
Beyond the Gray Sky

I can't believe you didn't call
What made you want to end it all
Wasn't there something I should have tried
To help you see beyond the gray sky