When the Going Gets Tough…

Sometimes we need a lifeline. 

Monday started off with a wet, heavy snow as I drove to a funeral.  Both unexpected.  At the funeral, I saw several of my former students.  Unexpected.  I sat in the pew remembering the Grandpa who loved his grandson.  His transition was sudden.   I thought about how his grandson will be forever changed.  I worried.  I watched as the Grandpa’s wife and daughters absorb the hugs and “God Bless Yous” marveling at their poise.  I listened to friends and family recall the Grandpa’s quiet life of extraordinary service.  I smiled.  I remembered how he guided his grandson for the seven years I knew him.  Service, family man, friend, best friend, loving man, church man, our Daddy were re-echoed themes.  Friend to many, servant to all.

How are you living your life?  I reflected on my contributions.  I’ve had this experience before; attending a funeral and looking around in wonder at the impact a person has in the lives of others.  How many of us know what that impact is while we are here?  How many of us remember to tell others how they’ve inspired our life, been a really good friend, or nurtured our Soul? 

Time is truly our most precious asset.  Sometimes it takes the stark reality of a funeral to be reminded that our relationships with family, friends, and loved ones are all that matters.  How we have touched, served, inspired, and nurtured our relationships is, in essence, the only thing that people really remember. 

Our job titles, material possessions, degrees, and all the other “things” are rarely, if ever, mentioned at a funeral.   How a person brought joy, life, Light, Love, and passion to the people in his/her life are the only things that truly matter.

Friends, loved ones, family…our relationships are life’s lifeline.  When the going gets tough, it is the loving Beings around us who pull us up, pump us up, and push us forward.  Our most valuable contribution to humanity is the relationship and love expressed to our friends and family.

I hope my reflection inspires you to stop and think about the quality of your relationships and friendships.  Are they as full, enriching, loving, and complete as you can make them?  I had to take stock.  My answer was no.  So, I am consciously committing my time to enrich my friendships and relationships.  In the rush-rush world, filled with 80-hour work weeks, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and all the rest, it is so easy to lose track of the last time I talked to a friend or loved one.  Be intentional.   It matters. 

Peace & Blessings~

Jenny

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What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?

Oprah recently interviewed Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, about her new book Lean In (Click to read excerpts).  Definitely a thought provoking interview (Watch Oprah’s Next Chapter segment).  In the interview this question was presented:  What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?  Honestly, the question drove right to my heart.  My mind magically and conveniently went blank.  What would I do?

Late into the night, I kept asking myself:  What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?  Since hearing the quote, I’ve been reminded of a couple of facts.

  1. When faced with an opportunity to describe a limit-free life, I get stuck as a very powerful voice (in my head) edits out any truly limitless, creative, inspired ideas I have with very rational objections.
  2. People can plant seeds of limiting beliefs in my heart/mind soil.  But I when I become the tenacious farmer—watering, cultivating, weeding, and fertilizing their negative seeds—I grow someone else’s garden of self-doubt in my heart/mind soil.
  3. I can’t…I don’t have…I’ll try…She/He told me that I wasn’t-couldn’t-shouldn’t-never.   These are some of the most limiting, fear producing statements in our language.

I live with these facts daily.  At times I succeed in living fully in my creative, inspired present—without fear.   There are days when I labor to stave off the crush of limiting beliefs.   

What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?  I know that I’m not alone in the world struggling with this question or with limiting beliefs.  But what I am committed to is getting unstuck by tackling one of the “facts” above and turning it into a limitless reality.

  1. I am limitless.  My creative ideas come from a Source greater than myself.  My gifts, talents, and dreams are given to me to be shared.  Bit-by-bit, no matter what, just do what I am inspired to do.
  2. Listen carefully to the people in my life (family, friends, co-workers, spouse/partner).  Bring those closer to me who honor, respect, and inspire me.   Move away from those who advocate limitation, dishonor, or disrespect me.
  3. I can…I have…I will…She/He told me I was-could-always be/am…amazing, productive, creative, inspired, Loving.  Language is powerful.  I chose and use words that lift me up and break through limitations.

What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?  Make your list and start doing.  Bit-by-bit your creative, inspired ideas will flourish.  There are no limits only infinite, creative opportunities.  Happy Tuesday!

Peace & Blessings~

Jenny

Our Evolution Will Not Be Televised

Inspiration comes in the most unexpected ways.   Yesterday I was radio frequency surfing randomly punching preset stations looking for engagement.  WPFW 89.3, a local progressive radio station, caught my ear.  The last 20 seconds of Gil Scott Heron’s1971 song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (check out the YouTube vid) sparked my imagination. 

Television, it seems, increasingly shapes who we are, how we behave, what we believe, and what we fear.  What does this have to do with evolution?  Listening to Gil’s powerful decree that the revolution for equality wasn’t going to be fueled by TV’s random events, it struck me that our spiritual evolution will never be televised on 24-hour news cycle or reality shows.  Our personal evolution to exemplify joy, wholeness, Love, Light, generosity, or the affirmative belief in the inherent goodness of others won’t emerge from a 72” TV screen, but through action.   

I find that my spiritual evolution grows with small acts of courage and fearlessness.   For the last three years, I walked to work in the dark.  No street lights.  I fully knew that the urban community where I worked made the morning/night news for everything fear-stirring: Gun violence, theft, hold ups, drug use/sales, domestic violence, teen-on-teen violence, sexual assault…an endless scary list.  Shadowy figures would walk toward me:  A group of men, a mother and her small children, a young male teenager, a sex worker, and other souls. 

Every morning, on that dark sidewalk, I spoke.  Good Morning!  Everyone got eye contact and a smile.  Every single person was startled.  Imagine that.  A smile, eye contact, and merry greeting would startle someone.  Over time, I would greet the same people hurrying along the dark sidewalk.  I believe our collective spiritual evolution happened when I was greeted back with a smile. 

One afternoon, as I repeated my morning greeting ritual, a disheveled man stopped me.  Now, let me be clear.  He was terribly unkempt.  His eyes were bloodshot.  He appeared high.  Did I really want to stop? Absolutely not.  But I did.  I breathed through my discomfort, fear, and listened.  “Sister,” he started off, “Thank you for speaking to me every day.  I really appreciate your smile and kind words.”  I about choked!  I didn’t recognize him.  We chatted for a few minutes and he went his way. 

As I walked away, I smiled.  I smile now.  We cannot deny that our simple, conscious acts of lifting other’s Spirits pull us closer.  Inspire someone’s day with joy.  Our spiritual evolution will not be televised, but it is happening.   Happy Friday!

Peace & Blessings~

Jenny

New Life Today!

Vernal Equinox, otherwise called the first day of spring, is today.  Snow flakes, freezing temperatures, late-to-bloom cherry blossoms suggest that spring is days away (at least here in Washington, DC).   You might be grumbling, as I am, at the still-hovering winter.  But this is the time of universal new life and rebirth celebrations among many religious/spiritual traditions, lands, and cultures.  Why is this so important?

IPads, smart phones, Facebook, TV, multi-task schedules, and professional demands overload our rush-rush lives.  I am consumed by “things” that separate me from the incredible rebirth transpiring around me.   I think many of us are.  I don’t believe it is important to hold a particular faith tradition belief to connect with the extraordinary power in this energetic rebirth.  

This energetic rebirth is intense.  I walked out of my house today my mind completely absorbed and churning.  I wasn’t noticing much around me.  When WHAM!  My full consciousness was awakened by bird songs.  Bird songs!  What was so profound?  There had to be eight different types of birds singing.  Unusual.  Stopping me in my tracks and silencing my mental noise was the extraordinary joy (my interpretation) I heard through the birds’ songs.  In my stillness, the air then drew my attention.  A pulsating, tangible resonant energy of new growth, new life, and new possibility left me breathless.    

Standing still I noticed: greener grass, daffodils, colorful tree buds, birds, and the faint fragrance of life unfurling.  I realized how important it is for my Spirit to be nourished by this renewal energy.  This breathtaking joy is as ancient as the human experience.   In Mexico, Egypt, India, Iran, Ireland, China, and countless other countries the Vernal Equinox is a festive, renewing, loving, seed sowing, and hope-filled time.   The Vernal Equinox is our universal link to one another and the Earth. 

My Spirit yearns for rest from the rush-rush.  I need the hope-filled infusion and celebration of spring’s renewing energy.  How about you?  Connect and re-energize.  Take a walk at lunch or after work to renew your Spirit with bird songs and tree buds.  

Peace & Blessings~

Jenny

Lest We Forget

I recently read a blog entitled Are You Listening? by Zen Doe, the wind horse blog, that opened my heart, sparked deep reflection, and a lesson in listening this Sunday.

Sunday I took an impromptu trip to the National Museum of the American Indian located in Washington, DC.  The museum is a stunning architectural masterpiece that, for me, captures the majesty of sandstone cliffs shaped by water and wind.  As I strolled to the entrance, a marsh rich with dormant trees, winter-browned grass, and an earthy leaf decay smell slowed me down to heart-listen.  Even in the midst of horns blaring, sirens shrieking, and frolicking children, the marsh gently spoke.  I listened to the subtleties.  The Grandfather Rocks, 40 massive, ancient boulders, radiated calm and certain energy.  Listen.  The museum’s rounded, flowing design suffused energy familiar to folks who spend time in Nature.  I literally could feel a Spirit, a silence, and a calm radiating from the architectural features.

I spent several hours reading about First Peoples from across the Western Hemisphere.  First Peoples sometimes known as American Indians, Native Americans, or Indigenous Peoples include thousands of tribes on the Western Hemisphere.   Unifying themes existed between tribes: the need to retain and teach one’s native language vital to sustaining culture, the devastating colonization effects, sacred lands stolen, sovereignty quests centuries-long, sacred responsibility for Mother Earth, and the interwoven relation between First Peoples and the Earth.  I listened as the words of Elders penetrate, reawaken, and remind me of Nature’s sacred sustenance.  Pay homage to one’s ancestors, the Elders’ voices remind me, to realize the profound spiritual interconnections and guidance of the past to the present.  

We often forget to seek the sacred energy of rocks, trees, water, wind, animals to help calm our minds.  Sometimes our Spirit’s deep longing for this sacred energy connection is ignored.   Remembering our oneness with all living things can start with a moment of tree-wind listening.  Or a Nature walk to still, listen, and absorb the life-filled energy of trees, flowers, grass, squirrels, insects, and water.   First Peoples, for millennia, understood a deep truth—All is interconnected with All—we are part of the wheel of life.  Take a walk today, listen, and recharge.  Mother Earth is the Source.  

Peace & Blessings~

Jenny

Turning Obstacles into Triumphs

Friday is a great day to reflect on my week.  Hmmm…usually I think about the constant challenges and obstacles to getting things done.  I fret and hand-wring or sometimes drop a few F-Bombs about all the obstacles I encountered.  I bet you’ve had this experience.  You know those crazy people who didn’t do what you wanted, the personal or professional situations that didn’t go well, or the plans that fell flat after you thought all would go well.

Obstacles are a wonderful, instructive part of our shared human experience.  Imagine if you didn’t have your obstacles.  Who would you be?   How do we turn our obstacles into triumphs?  Seem impossible?  Consider the story of Juan Sandoval, a talented pitcher, making his run for a spot in Major League Baseball.  In an instant, his entire life dream was halted.  Sandoval and his fiancé were enjoying a quiet dinner in the Dominican Republic a few years ago.  When an angry man, who was booted from the restaurant for poor behavior, returned with a shotgun and pulled the trigger.  Three pellets lodged in Sandoval’s right eye permanently blinding him. 

I was fascinated by his story when I heard it recently.   As a pitcher having sight in both eyes is critical to see line drive balls, see runners stealing bases, and judging depth perception.  What fascinated me was his deep belief and faith.  He chose to turn a career-ending obstacle into a blessing and a triumph.

You have to listen to his story on NPR Juan Sandoval.  Imagine losing something that would directly impact your dreams.  Imagine replacing your dreams with a seeming insurmountable obstacle.  Would you be able to rise, find the beauty and opportunity in your loss?  Juan Sandoval turned his obstacle into a triumph.  He is currently at Spring training competing for a spot on the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff.   I believe his purposeful desire to turn his obstacle into a triumph inspired those around him to take a chance. (Read about how he got to Spring training).   He is humble, thankful, and grateful.  He can name his blessings and see how his obstacle has enriched his life and strengthened him as a human being. 

How we choose to see an obstacle makes all the difference between triumph and defeat.  What obstacles can you transform into triumphs?  Happy Friday!

Peace & Blessings

Jenny

Hunger

Hunger.  Such an odd word to slide into my mind before the sun rose this morning.  I’ve been wondering what exactly I would write next.  Hunger.  For the last six hours I’ve turned the word over and over in my mind.  Breathing into it and silencing my thoughts to hear what would be revealed as I swam my pool laps.  Hunger. 

I grew up in a small town of a 175 people.  The town was stoplight-free, one paved road (the main highway), plenty of dirt-gravel washboard roads, and free-roaming dogs.  It was filled with an Oscar worthy cast of characters.   Every type of person you could imagine lived or drifted through town.  A big city photographer and a writer dropped out to move to our small town.  Folks owned businesses and acres of land, but never made it through middle school.  Others drank themselves into oblivion passing out in roadside ditches.  Language barriers existed for others whose mother tongue was not English.  Hippies with unkempt hair and smelly clothes stopped for a bit to work hours in the sun in exchange for steaks and beer before hitchhiking to new destinations. 

One unifying truth, we knew everyone.  We looked out for everyone, and yes, we knew everyone’s business.   No one was anonymous.   We had folks with terrible problems or who were just weird.  Some drank too much, were poor examples of spouses, or lacked honesty in business dealings.  But each community member was valued for something he or she contributed.  Everyone mattered—even people we disagreed with.  In our small town filled with misfits, eccentrics, and a few “regular” folks, people were important.  We didn’t talk about “building community” we just lived in relationship with each other.  We helped each other.

Hunger.   I believe we are suffering from profound relational malnourishment.   Am I of value to someone?  Do others value me?  Do I matter?  It seems that these questions, maybe worded differently, are asked daily.   Without answers or clear affirmative responses, our hunger for meaning becomes voracious.  To satisfy the hunger pangs, we gorge ourselves on fluff and stuff.   Still famished, we long for deep, meaningful relationships.  Do we realize in our rush-rush world how disconnected we’ve become?  Close friendships and relationships that nurture our Spirit are important to feed our hunger for meaning and connection.  Over the past month, I have reconnected with friends who answer, for me, some of the questions above and fill my Heart.  I am committed to reconnecting.  Who are you hungry to reconnect with?  Who nurtures, values, respects, and honors you, but is absent from your life?  I’m looking forward to sitting with friends, family, and others who feed my Spirit in uplifting, creative, loving, and valuable ways.  Are you?

Peace & Blessings~

Jenny

Begin

I sit before my computer…staring…wondering how to begin.   What can I write?  Will people find what I write interesting, inspiring?  What have others done?  Well…I sat remembering that yesterday and the yesterday before, my mind overflowed with ideas.  Ideas blossoming out of a walk with my dog, JJ, about the words and stories that may inspire, touch, and illuminate our collective journey.  Ideas that may draw us closer to ourselves and to others.  Ideas sparked from conversations with my Heart People (best friends) and new friends about the creative and transformative ideas and desires we all hold within, but are scared to begin.

So I begin a decades-long desire to write and share observations of our deep interconnectedness with all.  All.  An interesting, but challenging concept.  We are connected to all human beings around the planet—no matter our language, culture, ethnicity, attire, money, geography, religious or spiritual grounding, political views, and so on.  We are connected, too, with all living things.  We consume fruit grown in distant countries.  We inhale and exhale as all living things do. We seek the sun and rain. We grow and we die as all living things do. 

Rhythms Universal came to me more than 15 years ago as I began a journey of opening, healing, exploring, and understanding my interconnection to all living things and beings.   Rhythms exist in the inflow and outflow of breath, the ebb and flow of seasons, the Spring unfurrowing of leaves and grass blades, or the rhythmic beating of our hearts.  These Rhythms are Universal.  My goal is to open a dialogue of discovery to awaken and illuminate our interconnections; to become conscious of the Hope present and possible in our universal interconnectedness.

I hope you will join me on this journey of discovery, awakening, and illumination of our Rhythms Universal.

 Peace & Blessings~

Jenny