04Apr

“Lifted” to the Other Side of Challenge

“Lifted” to the Other Side of Challenge

Definition of “lifted”: To raise from a lower to higher position.

As many of you know, I love all things British, especially my friends who live in London. Years ago, while visiting them during a shared holiday in Cornwall, they played Lighthouse Family, a British band comprised of two young “mates” who had met while working at the same pub in the mid 90’s. A fantastic duo, they created magical, easy listening music and gained a dedicated audience.

Whenever I want to transport myself back to a cherished time spent on brisk walks along Cornish seaside cliffs, strolls into the village for afternoon tea or an evening of cheers with a pint at the pub for trivia game night, I play their songs, always beginning with “Lifted.” Although its appearance has spiritual overtones, the band and their music are not representative of a particular religious affiliation, instead this particular song holds a message of coming out of a darkness, beyond the rain, to joyfully experience what is on the other side…timely, eh?

The band separated for many years and reunited last year with a live performance during the Promenade Summer concerts in London. Watching this video will naturally ignite a variety of emotions: Shock, seeing so many people shoulder to shoulder, smiling, dancing, with lots of social closeness, not distance. There may be a longing for “the good ol’ days” when we united with similar crowds to sway together with a love of shared music and festivities. There may be a question of when will you be able to voyage to distant lands again and promenade through foreign parks, and mingle with others who may, like you, be checking off items from their bucket list?

Welcome these thoughts and their adjoining emotions. The pandemic forced us to face the unexpected and with it mounds of uncertainty, anxiety, waiting and wondering. Passover, Easter and Springtime are here and invite us to contemplate gratitude and renewal. Please gift yourself 5 minutes as you watch this video and tap into our shared collective spirit. Focus on hopefulness and envision how as more and more are receiving the vaccine, we are being “lifted” to the other side of this challenge, glimpsing a day when life will be restored, our doors open and we are “lifted” to health and recovery.

26Feb

Perspective

Perspective

I have been using the term “perspective” more often than usual lately. Of course, I love words and turned to my reliable Merriam-Webster and looked up the definition. Perspective: A mental view or prospect; the capacity to view things in their true relation or relative importance.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, and by working, and socializing, virtually we have learned more about our own, and others, perspectives on health, risk-taking, problem-solving, coping, humanity and global well-being. The protracted stress of the virus and now the re-entry wobbles, call upon each of us to dig deep for a point of view which can help us maintain optimism, hope, acceptance, patience, and restore motivation to restart activities and lifestyle. The saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a timely testimony to how we each view our lives back (last year), center (right now) and front (the next months). We are the “holders” of our perspectives and what we see as beautiful, vital and true.

I recalled a short tale I have used numerous times during workshops. As a disclaimer, I did not author this original concept yet did edit it a bit. 😊

One day a wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how impoverished others can be and to expose his son to a lifestyle of “less.” His hope was to heighten his son’s gratitude for the riches and lifestyle he was born into. They spent a day and a night on the farm of a very modest income family. When they returned from their trip the father asked his son, “What did you think about our time on the farm?”

“Very good Dad!”

“Did you see how very poor people can be?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah!” replied the son. “And what did you learn?” asked his dad.

The son answered, “I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden, they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden, they have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard, they have the whole horizon.”

As the little boy was finishing, his father was speechless. “And oh,” his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor WE are!”

Here’s to hope for expanding your perspective to embrace the “riches” of re-joining one another.

06Jan

Bring Clarity to 2021

Bring Clarity to 2021

Close your eyes to see clearly. Be still and you will hear the truth. 
—Ancient Zen saying

Just a year ago, 2020 escorted in a new decade and with it, lots of clever rides on the metaphor wagon with “clarity,” “vision,” and “focus” arriving on January 1st, 2020.

We splashed about in a pool of constant stimulation, whizzing to and from work, shuttling kids to school and afternoons and weekends brimming with activities. Vibrating cell phones and packed Google calendars, dinners, concerts and dings of incoming texts, schedules on the swift moving conveyor belt of life and I, like many of you, believed I was seeing every day very clearly. 😊

And then, March 20th, 2020, Covid-19 became the “new” lens we attached to our vision. A global “shut in” took place, leaving bustling shops vacant, hushed the noisy movement of humanity, emptied cluttered freeways and shielded our faces. From the stillness of staying at home, our view of the world shifted and we adapted.

For the first time in over 30 years of providing therapy, I joined every client in a shared experience, each of us reacting to this changed universe. Individually we confronted how to manage risk and orchestrate more direct control of our time. The absence of “going out” equaled the inevitable focus on relationships with family members, our home environments, unfinished projects, neglected hobbies and friendship connections. As much as we were witnessing the unimaginable of Covid’s arrival, without the rigor of timelines and coming and going, our familiar vision was “closed” and we were quite shockingly, and perhaps gratefully, invited to see clearly, become still and find our truth.

Take a moment to consider what “truths” became clear to you during this past year. Here are a few of mine:

Savor health, it is not a given.
Practice joy and laughter, they are lifelines.
Distribute gratitude, the finest currency.
Water curiosity, wisdom will grow.
Excavate hope and patience, daily.
Love life completely, every moment.

Sending you an abundance of hope for a New Year filled with courageous clarity, enlightened truths and welcomed renewal!

25Nov

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

So much has been given to me; I have no time to
ponder over that which has been denied.
—Helen Keller

The pandemic has denied us many “ings.” Socializing, hugging, partying, traveling, playing, shaking hands, smiling at one another (due to masks), riding roller coasters, mingling, joining in the workplace, studying on campus, greeting one another in church pews and synagogues, singing in concert halls, cheering at Petco Park—the list goes on. Yes, there are many “ings” absent in our day-to-day lives yet there are a few that are impervious to Covid-19: giving, thanking, loving.

Giving to those in need—consider making a donation to a community organization. Thanking others is a “social distanced” verbal hug. Reach out to someone (or many) and share your appreciation with a phone call. Whether spending Thanksgiving with a few friends or enjoying a much smaller than usual family gathering, perhaps the quote from Helen Keller could be a conversation starter around the table or on a Zoom gathering? Focus on what we have been given during our lifetime, not what has been denied during this challenging year.

“What has been given to you?” 

Breath ~ Life ~ Friendship ~ Dreams ~ Curiosity ~ Mind ~ Vision ~ Health ~ Opportunity ~ Time ~ Creativity ~ Language ~ Faith ~ Hope ~ LOVE

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.
—Khalil Gibran

It is my sincere hope you will “gobble up” and “digest” (couldn’t resist the puns 😊) all that you have been given and turn your focus to gratitude for another day of giving and receiving love. Wishing you a cornucopia filled with health and gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Enjoy this song by Jason Mraz, beautifully capturing “another day of loving.”

P.S. Couldn’t resist sharing this photo from the 2009 archives as my son and I were lucky to have a “Meet and Greet” following Jason’s concert at Coors Amphitheater.

Jason Mraz

02Nov

Ca suffit, reste tranquille

Ca suffit, reste tranquille

During my college summers, I worked as an au pair (nanny) in France. I adored the history, pastries, boutiques, villages, lush countryside, bustle of the Champs-Elysees, Le Metro underground transport and Bateau Mouche rides on the Seine. Yet most of all, I loved, and was mesmerized by, the language.

My adorable charges often spoke, ran and bicycled at speeds I struggled to match, yet one saying I used frequently was … “Ca suffit, reste tranquille.”  Literally translated it is, “That’s enough, stay calm.” It always flowed more as a caution than a reprimand, an invitation not a dictate. When our fears, future anxieties and distress speed up, it may be an opportunity to tell ourselves just this.

As we begin this week, many may be experiencing tensions regarding possible election results. I encourage you to take a moment and close your eyes, inhaling a full, glorious breath and say to yourself (in whatever language you prefer), “That’s enough. Stay calm.”

Music has always reminded me of the heart and soul of our humanity and never fails to bring me joy and optimism. I sincerely hope these selections will do the same for you. Ca suffit, reste tranquille.

 

15Jun

Post “Shelter in Place”—Take Baby Steps When Returning to Life

Post “Shelter in Place”—Take Baby Steps When Returning to Life

Since March, we heeded the red lights; sheltering, distancing and halting our day to day lives in the hopes of keeping the Covid-19 enemy’s toll reduced and at bay. We have arrived at mid-June, and the lights are turning green! In the 1991 film, “What About Bob?” the concept of “baby steps” was comically captured as Bill Murray’s character, Bob, conquered his fears by taking baby steps to overcome a mountain of anxieties. With each challenge, he coaxed himself to make progress. “Baby steps to the elevator. Baby steps to the bus stop!” Here is a fun clip to remind you of this hilarious film and if you have never seen it, perhaps put in on your “to watch” list!

It is natural to have a bit of “Bob” in us as we adjust to post “shelter in place” living. Leaving the house, returning to a workplace, entering a retail store, volunteering, having an in-person therapy appointment or meeting up with a few friends may now be evoking a plethora of nervous anticipation. Assessing risk is a significant component of balanced decision making. For example, you have an important appointment and as you drive, the “low fuel” light is blinking on the dashboard of the car. If you stop for gas, what is the risk of being late for the meeting? If you continue in order to be on time what is the risk of ending up on the side of the road? We are constantly measuring the risk of a decision, or behavior, and its outcome value.

Possessing a mindfulness of health and safety risks is essential to self-care. Thoughtful consideration of “stepping out” goes hand in hand with emotional wellness. It is absolutely OK to say, “Today I will decide on a few baby steps I am willing to take.”

03Jun

Journey Home with Wisdom, Love, Bravery

Journey Home with Wisdom, Love, Bravery

The Wizard of Oz came to mind the other day and, at the risk of being too simplistic, I believe it to hold the ingredients for emotional healing.

I lived in Africa as a teenager. My father embraced an opportunity for our family to live abroad as well as advance his career in the communication industry. My world was turned upside down as we left our home in Southern California—no beach, friends or Friday night football games? What! I resisted initially and yet the magic of Africa is hard to deny, even as a 16-year-old!

I hold this chapter in my life as an unearthed diamond, a treasure discovered. It became a lens that forever changed my vision of the world. I witnessed the extraordinary magic of African art, music, food, landscapes, traditions, and a cherished people with a resounding depth of tribal legacy. I can smell the rich, red clay dirt roads and envision my favorite market vendor with reams of vibrant material. I also recall being one of a few white faces in this same marketplace and the calm I felt when greeted by curious smiles, conversation and warmth, as well as my stomach anxiously twitching when I heard a few chant “serpent blanc” (white snake) as I walked by. I was mesmerized by the strength, stoic leadership of women, wrapping their infants tight, while carrying baskets laden with food and supplies on their powerful, unfaltering heads. With local friends and guides, we learned about our new territory, gained wisdom, adapted, found our way and felt loved. My parents, sister and I made a home in Bangui, Central African Republic.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was on a quest to return home. One man, “the wizard” was sought out to accomplish this mission. Her companions along the journey, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion were seeking what they believed they lacked; a brain, a heart and courage. They found out, the solution was not with the wizard, it was within each of them to attain what was missing.

In the strife and violence we have witnessed during this past week, our journey to find “home” requires wisdom, love and bravery today. The horror of seeing George Floyd grasp, plead and then lose his last breath is a collective trauma for our nation and the world. The protection which law enforcement represents was severely violated by this evil, dominating act against a Black man. Courage, wisdom, listening, compassion, respect and love are not colors. Now is the time for each of us to look within, find the courage to challenge limiting beliefs, engage in thoughtful reflection, learn more and gain wisdom, share compassionate understanding and employ respect to actively express love for one another.

The iconic Diana Ross played the role of “Dorothy” in the 1978 film “The Wiz.” I encourage you to pause and click on her moving message in the song “Home” from the film.

Brother Iz, truly a gentle giant, sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Enjoy his melodic version of this timeless song.

27Apr

The Restorative Magic of Time

The Restorative Magic of Time

Sorrow by Abraham Lincoln
 
In this sad world of ours,
sorrow comes to all
and it often comes with bitter agony
perfect relief is not possible
except with time
you cannot now believe that
you will ever feel better
but this is not true
you are sure to be happy again
knowing this, truly believing it,
will make you less miserable now.

While in Kindergarten, my son was learning about “Honest Abe.” At after school pick up one day, following a memorable classroom discussion about our 16th President, he posed this question, “Mama, did you know Abraham Lincoln?” To which I replied, “Of course I know about President Lincoln.” My son became more adamant, “NO! Did you ever meet him?” Hah!

While coming across this poem by my friend, Abe 😊, I smiled at the contrast of the title of the poem with this humorous memory. In so doing, I instinctively practiced what I believe his words were intending. Recognizing a difficult time in our lives, where there is no perfect relief needs to be paired with a future day when happiness and comfort prevail.

With this worldwide health crisis, there is no perfect relief to what we are facing. Even with masks, social distancing, stunningly dedicated and talented healthcare workers, scientists working tirelessly, this virus is permeating our life and for many, the sorrow is agonizing and what relief awaits is not immediate. In the words of this poem, “You are sure to be happy again…” is offered up as a promise packaged in time.

Try this: Recall an event when you ached from an emotional hurt or felt challenged by an unwanted change and questioned when you would feel happy again. In time, smiles and joy did find you—not perfect relief, but weeks and months carried you to less distress and reconstructed happiness. As this week begins, focus on the restorative magic of time and savor the transformation from loss to replenished and from fear to hope. This, in the words of ol’ Abe, may make you less miserable now.

03Apr

Patience and Wisdom in Challenging Times

Patience is the companion of wisdom.
—Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD

The human experience is truly timeless, even more so as I came across this quote and marveled at the author’s year of birth—354 AD. Hmmmm, I have a hard time counting backwards from 100 😊, imagine the year 354 AD? Profound truths are eternal and this qualifies when we consider the health crisis we face today.

The joining of patience and wisdom, companions in dealing with challenging circumstances, is a vital partnership. How did they meet and dare I say, even become friends? Maybe it went something like this…

Wisdom:  “Hello, may I ask your name?”

Patience: “My name is Patience, it is best pronounced very slowly. And yours?”

Wisdom:  “I am Wisdom, but you can call me Wise. What is your purpose during strife and difficulties?”

Patience: “I am able to tolerate challenges calmly and without complaint. I am steadfastly determined to bear adversity, find ways to trust and have faith in overcoming hardships. What makes you Wise?”

Wisdom:  “I accumulate knowledge, scientifically and philosophically. I seek balance, reflection, perspective, reason and conscientious solutions.”

They stood for a long, thoughtful moment, and then gave slow, knowing nods to one another.

Wisdom:  “Patience, you offer deep breaths, soothing assurance and acceptance of what is. You are what I need.”

Patience: “Wisdom, you allow for exploration of answers and options for possibilities. You are what I need.”

Wisdom:  “After careful consideration, I would be honored to have you as my companion, will you join me?”

Patience: “I would be happy to, I have all the time in the world.”

 

25Mar

Covid-19 Pandemic: A Time to Pause and Discover

Stop leaving
And you will arrive.
Stop searching
And you will see.
Stop running away and
You will be found.
—Anonymous

Just as lettered plastic ping pong balls tumble in a spinning Bingo cage, a million words are bouncing in my head, waiting to be called out. I have been hungry for words during the past week—scientific words to explain, brave words to ease fear, tender words to bring comfort, lighthearted words to bolster a heavy mood. My guess is this quote did not originate in response to a pandemic! Yet, it spoke to me, as I hope it does for you.

Stop leaving. We have been stopped from leaving, coming, going, mingling, dining out, embracing, and on and on. We have arrived where we live, looking into the hours, days and weeks of being on our own or side by side with family members. This arrival beckons projects, games, creativity, meals, work, movies, conversations and decisions on how best to fill this time with meaning, connection and endurance.

Stop searching. Often a search for our value and belonging is woven within our vocations, recreation, socializing, and busyness. Now without these external means of fulfillment, we are forced to stop and see our lives up close. This standstill vision can be an opportunity to focus on ignored or untended areas of your home, self and relationships.

Stop running away. So much of our hectic pace, schedules and running, keep us on a rapidly paced conveyor belt of life. Often the “have to do’s” propel us to run away from our hearts’ desire, dreams and yes, true self. Which begs the question? How will you be found? What will you discover, uncover, foster, acknowledge and bravely examine in this paused and still place?

Dig deep to sustain patience, find creative avenues and confidence to face each chapter of this challenge.

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