Hero for a Day
In life, are these opportunities or annoyances? We are passing by a frail lady carrying too many bags of groceries. We see an accident on the side of the road. A small child appears afraid and alone at a big chain store. A woman is sitting on the steps of her home crying. How do we decide who we help and who we leave? Does helping someone out really help us? Does it create a triumphant moment for somebody desperately needing assistance?
Opportunity is defined in the dictionary, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary, as “a good chance for advancement or progress.” Annoyance conversely, is defined as, “a source of vexation or irritation: nuisance.” Attitude plays a key role in the ability to be a hero for a day. So many times we pass up a chance to better our lives, by simply opening the door for someone or smiling and saying, “have a nice day.” This is the right thing to do. But, “that’s easy”, someone belts out. Is it? Then why aren’t more people doing it? Our ego and annoyances go together like hand and glove. It is easier to run out a door and not look back. We are, after all, the only people that matter.
Then, that nagging problem occurs, a bend in the road. You find a car upside down on the embankment. Do I pass and call 911? My son has to be picked up from his school in 20 minutes and I don’t have time to help. What if the people are dead? Full of anxiety, how do you make the right choice? You stop, and in a moment of adrenalin, hop in to help. Guess what, your son gets in late from school and doesn’t miss you. The families of the victims get closure that in their last hours their mom was with someone who cared. Details of a sketchy accident become clearer. Helping out clearly makes a difference! What if it was an annoyance, we passed the car, called 911, and then see in the local paper, “Two confirmed fatalities in accident, no details available.” Be a Hero, stop and help!
Simply stated, we don’t have to run into every burning house and save the baby. Sometimes we can’t do anything. But as we are mindful of our surroundings, the universe presents situations that will make someone else, and ultimately us, feel good. These are often subtle and sometimes blatant. The point is about being a Hero every day!
Pan Seared Chicken Breast
A recipe straight from Brookhaven Retreat’s Chef Robert Vittetoe:
How is Your Skin?
To see smooth, beautiful skin is a pleasurable sight. It's one of those very necessary items that we take for granted until there is an injury. Skin is something we know is there and assume it always will be, until a trauma strikes. We really are such a nation of band-aid lovers. The minute a skin injury faces a little child; we are immediately out with boo-by the appearance of a band-aid. Of course, it is unthinkable that we would put a band-aid on a bone deep cut that needs stitches and full medical attention. Yet that is sometimes what we do to ourselves. We try to treat a deep emotional wound with a band-aid; a wonderful tool for the right job but useless for the wrong job.
Iman says that the skin you take care of in your 20s is the one you will inherit in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond; which is why you should never leave home without SPF on your face. The sun does not discriminate. The same is true of our emotional skin. How it is treated in its younger years will significantly affect things as life moves along. Some people become very thin-skinned and are super-sensitive to almost everything and sometimes others become very thick-skinned, feeling nothing.
A maintenance program for most is the way to go for keeping healthy skin. There are actually only a few essential principles you must never compromise on. Eat well, stay hydrated and get a good night’s sleep. That sounds so easy but for anybody with fear, panic, or anxiety, sleep is a very fickle and elusive friend. Sleep hygiene can be a daily pre-bed routine that can really assist to restore good sleep.
Getting comfortable in your own skin takes lots of work. Pummeling away the old calluses and emotional hard skin to reveal beautiful, new soft skin that is ready to live. Wearing your emotional SPF each day by having a mindful attitude about life itself. Everything you take in through the sensory channels will affect the skin so be careful what you expose yourself to.
What you do to your skin now will pay off later.
Music of a Healing Heart
Music can evoke so many memories. It can reach levels of joy, sorrow, laughter, and heartbreaking pain. The power of song, music, and your deeply personal response to it is thought to be an emotional engagement like no other, creating moods than can take you to places you did not know you had. Soothing music to those who feel chronically depressed, sad, and alone is comforting.
There are so many extraordinary and varied instruments to choose from. There are those that have been a little stigmatized, as they did not seem as thoroughbred as some others. Stigmatizing something or somebody; judging or labeling can be a great mistake because it underestimates the power of the body and mind to heal and restore. Watching some people speak through their music says more about them than all the words they may choose to utter.
The ukulele for me was associated with George Formby, an amazing artist. The funny thing is the ukulele somehow was a second-class instrument. It was somehow never going to be a harp or a cello to me. I associated it with noise and sing-along songs.
I had to change my view when I saw this instrument played in the hands of Jake Shimabukuro. Watching this man’s deep and genuine love of this instrument and the speed of his fingers and hands work on the strings and body of that instrument is nothing short of captivating. This instrument being played by a man that passionately loves the ukulele, elevated it to a plane not previously known to the humble ukulele. His ability to play is not loudly, proudly, and busily, but quietly, sensitively, intimately, and tenderly. He sought more power to be heard by teaching that music makes its most powerful statement in the quite moments. Healing the mood of the heart by hearing and understanding how to engage with it.
Jake Shimabukuro, a native of the Hawaiian Islands, captures so many moods and expressions of self-honesty in his music that it makes everything seem so much easier.
You can find him on YouTube.
Enjoy his music as it may help you ask if your own self-honesty is helping your heart to heal.
There is a Sheryl Crow song that states, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”. Getting caught in the proverbial trap of materialism is a highly ineffective pattern for filling the hole in your soul. At some point in time, many people think that happiness and joy come from “things”. In talking to people blessed materially and having had the opportunity to have had “stuff”, I have been educated on the value of wanting what you got.
I have read that people who have their basic needs met; food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and money to cover bills…to those who are multi-millionaires, that there is no real difference in quality of life. This tells me it is important to have an attitude of gratitude to all we do have and not concentrate on what we don’t have. Today I am grateful for many things, having something to drive, a roof over my head, and especially food. I am no happier in a BMW than I am a in Ford because I know it can get me where I want to go. Doesn’t mean I like the Ford more, it just means I am blessed to have it and I am grateful.
Gratuity gives a spiritual connection like no other; you begin to feel so blessed and eager to help people who don’t have their basic needs met. That connection starts filling the void, that emptiness that echoes through our heart and soul. Loneliness and despair are slowly replaced by contentment and joy. Life is good! Once again rich with life, rich with love, those circumstantial problems start to be put in perspective. For me being single became OK. When I met someone I was very slow to move, knowing how good it all already was. This helped me to develop a healthy relationship based on being OK with myself. I don’t need anything to be happy except myself and my spiritual connection. What freedom from bondage!
Wanting what you’ve got is a slow process. It usually starts with a gratuity list every day. Watch over time as the list grows and changes. Even if you don’t feel grateful, write it down anyway. As you continue, you will find that you will start appreciating the things on the list. Prayer may be helpful to some, but meditation is equally as potent. Once you start feeling it, the gains are limitless. Start working on wanting what you got today, the payoff is fantastic!
What do you do when someone tells you something that is invariably true but so totally not what you want to hear? It’s typically not comfortable. It reminds me of trying to fit into a pair of jeans I “out-expanded” years ago. I kick at them, pull, claw at the wrinkles trying to get them on, and for what? Really just so I can say ‘ha! I did it! I knew I wasn’t too big for them’ because I know darn well that the second I button that top button I’m going to either pass out from holding my breath or reverse my decision to squeeze into them and peel them off as fast as possible. Hearing the truth is sometimes the same feeling for me. It’s easy to slip into your rational mind and try to think your way out of the truth. Sometimes the truth does indeed hurt. Sometimes the truth is a reminder that we can trick ourselves into believing a fallacy about ourselves.
I recently tricked myself into believing I was doing good work toward my own self-improvement when in truth I was only going through the motions. I was over-committed to helping others to the point that I had convinced myself that helping others was good enough to count as helping myself as well. While I have undoubtedly learned from every person I have been in contact with, I neglected to give myself adequate time to process what exactly I was learning and then time to apply it in a meaningful way in my life. One day a friend somewhat callously told me, “Stop. Stop ignoring you again.” She may as well have slapped me across the face because I was that surprised by the comment.
What I had failed to see myself was that while it’s okay to be focused on others at times, it’s also important to always be mindful of where you are in your life and how you are feeling in a situation. This doesn’t have to be done to the complete exclusion of all others, but as my friend pointed out, if I am being one hundred percent other-focused, I’m not leaving room to look within myself and see what’s happening. She was right. As uncomfortable as that comment felt, my friend saved me from much greater heart ache and suffering that would surely have resulted from the self-neglect.
Sometimes we are just unable to be objective. We get so wrapped up in things and events that we forget who we are or where we are or what we think. We become so over-indulged that we lose sight of how we feel. If we aren’t looking out for ourselves, no one else is going to. When your knee-jerk reaction to someone is to become defensive, take a step back and examine what it is that’s causing the defensiveness before dismissing what may very well be fact. It is very hard to do. Again, many times hearing the truth, especially when it is truth you’ve convinced yourself is false, is painful but it’s a necessary reminder at times. When that happens, feel the surprise, avoid the defensive impulse, and say thank you to whomever dished out the truth to you. They may just be saving you from a crash in the end.
It seems like this year has been particularly bad for natural disasters. If it’s not a wildfire, then it’s a tornado or hurricane or flood. Maybe I’ve just been blind to these disasters for the past few years or maybe this really is a bad year, but either way it’s the first time I can remember that so many people I know have been affected. With all of the destruction of lives, homes, property, and jobs that natural disasters create, it makes me question the purpose of them. What positive purpose could possibly be served in something so vicious? One possible answer: It allows for regrowth. Without clearing away the old, we have no room to create anything new.
Take wildfires, for example. Often, old growth creates a choke-hold on the health of a forest. Weeds in an old growth forest will continue to grow and spread, sucking the nutrients out of the soil. To rid the forest of the deadly, soil-leeching weeds would cost millions of dollars that the state and federal parks services simply don’t have. Wildfires have the ability to clear out an old growth forest, leaving room for new, healthier plants, which attract newer forms of flora and fauna. Natural disasters also remind us of the unpredictable nature of life and the importance of being resilient. In psychological terms, resiliency refers to an individual’s ability to “bounce back” from stress and adversity. Natural disasters are a source of stress on the people and environments in which they affect. Time and again we see examples of individuals stepping up during the time of a crisis and providing more than seems humanly possible to help others who are affected. The wildfires in Colorado earlier this summer showed me the resiliency of my friends and family in the Colorado Springs and Fort Collins areas who were themselves affected by the fires, but were able to open their homes to their local acquaintances who were forced to evacuate and house these individuals for extended periods of time.
One of my friends affected lost her home and her farm and all I could think about was how devastating that must be. I
felt stress and anxiety over what it must be to lose your home and your job all at one time. How can you rebuild? What I saw as worry, she saw as opportunity. A very skilled artist, she had wanted to turn her passion for photography into a source of income. Having just lost nearly everything she saw her chance to grab her camera and begin photographing the fires and the aftermath of the fires. Her photography has showed up in some newspapers and online sources following the fires, documenting the subtle beauty of nature’s fury. She has since opened a small photography studio in her town as she puts the pieces of her life back together. This is resiliency at its finest.
Figuratively, a woman entering treatment is much like a wildfire in an old growth forest. Years of self-defeating behaviors can create a choke-hold of overgrowth in a women’s mind, body, and spirit. By displaying resiliency and willingness to enter treatment, a woman is demonstrating the courage to clear out the old patterns and ruts of dysfunction in her life and claim herself as a new being; a woman who is only going to accept positive regrowth.
In no way am I minimizing the importance of the lives of humans and animals that are affected by natural disasters. They are horrible events, but they are unavoidable in most cases. It’s the circle that is life in essence. Disasters in nature and in life are going to happen. Some pain is part of the process of disasters; whether physical pain, mental pain in the form of stress or worry, or the pain of losing property. What’s important is that we can learn from life’s literal or figurative disasters no matter the size, find the meaning and purpose, and regroup and move forward in a positive manner.
The formation and dissolution of glaciers is one of the planet’s most magnificent transformations. Our planet goes through many changes that mirror our own lives; in autumn, nature slows down and settles into a period of rest in preparation for the changes ahead and the glorious return of spring. For people, too, it seems to be a time of mindfulness and retreat from the hustle and bustle of summer. Yet as the weather evolves and the seasons begin to shift again, there is an even greater and more inspirational change occurring beneath our very feet: that of glacial rebound.
While the idea of a glacier can be difficult to imagine in the sweltering throes of summer, it is an ever-pertinent metaphor: glaciers melt, sea levels rise, and the land, liberated from the weight of the ice, also rises. This very process made entire countries in Europe habitable.
In our everyday lives, our fears, anxiety, doubts and stressors act as the glacier, keeping us suffocated as if underwater, incapable of being our true, best selves. Our happiness and authenticity remains buried, even from ourselves. When that pressure is released, expansion is allowed. Casting off the many weights that once stifled us, we rise above, whole and triumphant.
Sometimes it is difficult to recognize ourselves under the pressure of daily life and a culture of expendability in which we are bombarded with mixed messages, all designed to leave us wanting the latest thing, or feeling unfulfilled. It is also difficult to find confidence when our lives are filled with challenges that can feel disheartening. Yet when we take the time to see things for what they are, recognize the unimportant and the illusions and ignore the cacophonous messages of the outside world, we begin to shake off the weight of the “ice.” By being aware of the beauty in the world, and just listening for our own happiness, we rise up into the joy that is all around us.
By being mindful, taking time to listen to ourselves and focusing on what is truly important to us, we emerge as islands of strength and resilience.
Irresistible Fruit Salad
I have never been a lover of a fruit salad that has lots of hard pieces of apple in it.
One of the most glamorous fruit salads is when all the fruits are soft and red. There are always lots of ohs and ahs just because it is all soft and red!
Welcome to Your New Season!
Autumn is my favorite season of the year. The air gets a little cooler and crisper. The school season starts a new year so the kid’s routines resume, summer vacation is over, and people get back into groove of things. I couldn’t think of a better time to be in the “Smokies” with all of the beautiful trees and natural art the mountains have to offer. I love the colorful leaves that change to beautiful shades of oranges, golds, and reds. I also love colorful mums, pumpkins, and seeing a scarecrow or two.
Autumn or “fall” by definition marks the transition from summer into winter. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. Fall represents a time of maturity. You see if everything that has been done throughout the spring and summer then it is also a time of harvest for crops. Fall is the preparation for the winter.
Not only is fall a season of harvest of the land, but we can also look at how we have the seasons of our lives. Our autumn may represent the true colors coming out in us, or that our lives change just as the leaves change. Maybe our harvest represents harvesting the good and getting rid of the not so good. Our personal harvest depends on how diligent we have been in previous seasons. Autumn in our lives is the time of when we can see evidence of our own hard work. It is so important that we all have an autumn because we may never know when a winter will come.
Without the ability to know the season you are in, you will miss many opportunities. If you miss one season, you will have to wait until the season comes around again.
Seasons affect all aspects of our daily living. Usually if you are in your favorite season you are in a better mood. And it’s the seasons that we may not like as much that can get us down. But as the seasons change, we as humans change. You will either embrace change to move forward or will keeping doing things the same way in hope a new season will arrive. Learning how to embrace change as a natural way of things, you begin to get clear about what your next season looks like. When you stop resisting and release your fears, you start living the life you were meant to. Welcome to your new season!