A “FAITH IN HUMANITY” STORY OF COMPASSION, HOPE, AND JOY

 

On September 10th, an unusual ad appeared in a Houston newspaper. The ad is actually a letter from the people of New Orleans to the people of Houston. The message, a moving and powerful one, demonstrates the best in humanity, including its beauty. Our beauty.

 

Please read the letter below. What thoughts, feelings, and ideas does it stir in you? Post your comments on the contact page here on my website or write to me at CharleneCostanzo@gmail.com.

 

“To our friends in Texas,

Twelve years ago, you took in hundreds of thousands of us. You opened your homes, closets, and kitchens. You found schools for our kids and jobs to tide us over. Some of us are still there. And when the rest of the world told us not to rebuild, you told us not to listen. Keep our city and traditions alive.

Now, no two storms are the same. Comparing rising waters is a waste of energy when you need it most. But know this — in our darkest hour, we found peace and a scorching, bright light of hope with our friends in Texas. And we hope you’ll find the same in us.

Our doors are open. Our clothes come in every size. There’s hot food on the stove, and our cabinets are well-stocked. We promise to always share what we have.

Soon, home will feel like home again, even if it seems like a lifetime away. We’ll be battling for football recruits under the Friday night lights. You’ll tell us to stop trying to barbeque. We’ll tell you to lay off your crawfish boil and come have the real thing. But for as long as you need, we’re here to help.

The way of life you love the most will carry on. You taught us that. Your courage and care continues to inspire our whole city. We couldn’t be more proud to call you our neighbors, our friends, and our family. Texas forever.

We’re with you,
New Orleans”

(from the Houston Chronicle)

As I read it again, I tear, again. But they are happy tears. My faith in humanity is strengthened. You and I can act with this level of compassion and reverence for others, day in and day out, in times of calamity and times of calm, always. We have the capacity for this. And the courage. We can respond with loving care and respect no matter how others behave. Does this seem wise or foolish to you? Realistic, idealistic, or unrealistic? I’d love to hear from you!

Charlene

SEEING PROBLEMS AS OPPORTUNITIES

    
 
“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” 
              ~ Duke Ellington
 

 

 

Hmm. I think we all believe, to some extent at least, that we can look at “problems” differently. We can find blessings in every challenge. 

If/when we do ever truly see them as valuable opportunities, the outcomes will be different. We will be different. Stronger. Healthier. Freer. Better in so many ways.

But because we are so accustomed to seeing problems as…well…PROBLEMS, we do not yet embrace them as opportunities. We often fear them, deny them, resist them, complain about them, blame others for them, or beat ourselves up over them. We may try to avoid facing them.

Today, let’s take another shot at grasping the powerful truth that our problems are chances for us to get it better, to overcome limitations, to clear away stumbling blocks, to remove blind spots and to remove hurts and hates from our hearts.

There are many possible tools and practices that can help us “see differently.”

Consider this:

Select one of your worries, one of the things you have labeled as a “problem.” Write a brief description of it, fold the paper, and place it in a spot you designate as sacred, or special to you in some way. Intend, as best you can, to release the worry.  Even if it feels “impossible,” do it anyway. Do it with faith, even if that faith is smaller than a mustard seed. Ask for help, guidance and grace to recognize opportunities and solutions that lead to something greater. Then use your gift of imagination. “See” the person, the issue, the financial challenge, the threat of loss, the illness – whomever and whatever – in a different light. Remember a time or vision one in which all is well. Open your heart further to love and compassion by bringing to mind someone or something you love dearly, something that makes you smile. Baby animals do this for many people. Go about your day, gently.

 


Also, let this drawing be a reminder that truly can see things differently. Are you familiar with it? You should be able to see both a young woman and a very old one. While neither is the “correct” or “better” way of seeing, seeing problems as opportunities is the better way for our health, happiness, and success overall.

May every problem in our personal lives, in our country and in our world lead us toward greater love, hope, beauty, and joy. Toward greater courage and compassion too. And peace.

With faith always,

Charlene

IMPATIENT? FOR PEACE: ADOPT THE PACE OF NATURE

 

 

 

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

If you find yourself feeling impatient today, think of trees growing, rocks eroding, caves and canyons forming.

How do you typically react when you’re stuck behind a car traveling under the speed limit or in an already-long checkout line when the cashier calls for the manager? Instead of tensing your muscles – if that’s what you do – bring to mind a flower blooming. Make that century plant!

Perhaps you’re impatiently frustrated with yourself. If you feel behind in realizing your dreams, take a deep breath and remember: we are a part of Mother Nature too.

For greater peace, health and happiness, let’s gently and kindly get in her flow.

With compassion for ourselves and all,
Charlene

PS – I’m not saying we should literally move as slowly as these examples! Just let images from nature help you to shift into a peaceful, 
patient pace. Making a literal comparison of a checkout line moving at the rate of a century plant blooming might tickle your funny bone though. And laughter can move us to a healthier pace and “place” too! Wishing you peace, patience, and joy. Hope and faith too.

WHAT IS COURAGE?

Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” ~ John Wayne

I love this quote. I can almost hear John Wayne delivering it in his distinctive drawl.

Let’s remember that courage is “saddling up anyway” when we’re just a little scared too and when we don’t know if we have enough experience to stay in the saddle and in many other scenarios.

So whether we’re feeling terrified, timid, troubled, touchy, tired or terrific, let’s saddle up and ride into this day as best we can.

Walk, trot, canter, gallop or ride like the wind. Every gait is good.

May you be spurred on and ride through the day with no sweat, using courage to be truly you.

Hitting the trail,
Charlene

PS – Just for fun: Do you know what these other horse-related expressions mean? Might any of these feel as if they apply to you today?

Chomping at the bit
Hold your horses
Frisky as a colt
Staying in the buggy
Left at the gate
Dragooned
Back in the saddle
In stride
Jumpin’ in the saddle
Hitting the trail

ONE RAISIN AND ONE MINUTE: ONE WAY TO MORE MINDFULNESS

 

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”   

~ Jo Walton
 
This post is not just about appreciating sunrises and sunsets. The question is: how present are we each day? How mindful? How aware are we of beauty, our senses, and all that we sense?
 
Consider this simple activity as one way to be more mindful.
 
You can do this in one minute. All you need is one raisin. Before eating the raisin, hold it in your hand. Roll it between your fingers. Examine it as if it is the first raisin you have ever seen. Then close your eyes and place it in your mouth. Keep them closed for the entire time you are tasting the raisin. Chew the raisin very slowly. Notice the taste, the changing texture, how your mouth fills with saliva, and more. Pay attention to all the little things you are experiencing. Give the raisin your full attention for a full minute, or for as long as you can, before swallowing all of it.
 


Let this mindful minute lead you to pay closer attention to some other things you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste today. Be like a child, full of curiosity and wonder.

Seize and savor this day. Every day.

 
With joy,
Charlene
 

PS – Try this another time, using an almond or other nut. Try an olive. What else might you use? Do this as a family and share your experiences. Talk about sunrises and sunsets too. Which do you prefer and why?

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A GRATITUDE KEY FOR OPENING JOY

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” 
                           ~ Melody Beattie
 
Gratitude is like a key. Actually, gratitude is a key.
 
While we can’t put gratitude on a key chain or hang it on a wall rack, gratitude opens joy just as our house key opens our front door.
 
Or can we? Hmm. I’m going to try this. Perhaps you will too.
 
Make a colorful, sturdy cardboard key with the word “gratitude” on it. Hang it on your key chain.
 
If you have a wall key holder in your house, make some sort of artistic key to place there. Use your imagination. Make it uniquely you. If you don’t already have a wall rack, hang your gratitude key on a attractive hook in some prominent place.
 

This could be a simple and light-hearted way to cultivate a greater gratitude practice for ourselves. It could be fun too, especially if we involve children.

Whether or not you make a physical gratitude key, create one in your mind. Carry that image with you as you go about this day.

For the joy of it,
Charlene

HELP CHILDREN FEEL VALUABLE: THREE LESSONS IN STONES

“Thank you for helping me feel like a shiny stone instead of a plain old worthless rock,” said a third-grade boy in Tucson, Arizona.

An effect and reaction like that is what I hope for when I offer a polished stone to children in classrooms – adults in audiences too – after we discuss the message of The Twelve Gifts of Birth. If you’re familiar with the book, you know that the story, illustrations, and photographs help children of all ages recognize their inner gifts and feel valuable.

To anchor the message and help make the intangible gifts of inner strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith feel more touchable and real, I use a bowl of stones in a show and tell way. You can do this too in a one-on-one way or with any size group.

When speaking with groups, a clear fish bowl is an ideal container. Fill it at least halfway with medium-sized polished stones of all varieties. On top of all the shiny and colorful stones, place a regular, rough rock, the kind you might pick up from a street, sidewalk, or hiking trail. For a one-on-one talk, a handful of polished stones and one rough rock is sufficient.

The bowl of stones does a good job of grabbing attention and stirring curiosity in groups.  I present the bowl after the reading, discussion, and the question, “Who feels valuable in this moment?” All (or nearly all) hands shoot up.

That opens the door for THE THREE LESSONS IN POLISHED STONES.

The plain rough rock is used to acknowledge that we all sometimes feel like that: plain, ordinary, maybe even worthless. The truth is that we are all like the polished stones. Like them we’ve been tumbled. For them it was in a machine. For us it is in life.  The keepsake polished stone is meant to remind us that no matter what we look like on the surface or what we feel like, we have strength, beauty, and other valuable qualities within us always.

The second lesson the stones offer is the beauty of all their various colors, shapes, and sizes. We too come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. No matter. Like the stones, in that way too, we are all valuable.

The third lesson comes from taking a very close look at one or any number of the stones. Upon close examination, we see little cracks, nicks, scratches. While they are indeed beautiful, strong, and valuable, they are not perfect. Neither are we.

And those are three lessons for all of us to remember for ourselves and to share with the children in our lives.

Parents, teachers, counselors, all readers who may use this activity in any way, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m guessing that a collection of colorful stones can carry other meaningful messages. What do you think of the three I described? What other life lessons do you see?

Toward dignity for all,
Charlene

 

 

 

 

LISTENING: SOMETHING WE COULD ALL DO BETTER

“You’ve got to listen to the universe, to life, to God, whatever you want to call it. Because it’s going to speak to you.” ~ Jillian Michaels

Consider the quote above and the ones below. Read each one slowly, with care. Then “listen” for some subtle, or not so subtle, guidance from the voice of wisdom within you. As the day goes on, continue to “listen.”

What you receive may be in the form of a nudge, a memory, a gut feeling, something you overhear, a message on a billboard, a song you hear…the possibilities are almost as numerous as the feathers on a seagull, on all seagulls, all birds.

What you receive may be about listening, but it’s more likely to offer direction for a deeper question you have, a choice you need to make, or a next step toward a dream. Wisdom guides us in many ways, through many forms. 

Let’s listen better to one another too!

“Wisdom will lead you through knowledge to understanding. May you hear its soft voice.” (from The Twelve Gifts of Birth)

“Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply…When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.” (Stephen Covey)

“There are seasons in life. Don’t ever let anyone try to deny you the joy of one season because they believe you should stay in another season… Listen to yourself. Trust your instincts. Keep your perspective.” (Jane Clayson)

“You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.” (George Michael)

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)

Feel free to comment, question, or share your experience with this. I’d love to hear from you! 

Listening,
Charlene

 

 

THE POWER OF WONDER

“May you see the world with wonder.” 
– from The Twelve Gifts for Healing                             
                              

 

Like Charlotte Eriksson, “I want to remember to notice the wonders of each day, in each moment, no matter where I am, under any circumstance.”  And that includes the circumstances of sickness, sadness, and stress. How about you?

Did you know that wonder promotes healing?

​​​​​​​“The more I wonder, the more I love,” said Alice Walker. Love promotes healing too. As does beauty. And joy.

We were bursting with wonderment in early childhood. It wanes as we age. But we can re-invigorate our sense of wonder. Why would we?

Well, for one reason, as Einstein said, “Whoever…can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead.

 What stirred wonder in you when you were a                            child? What does now?

 Did you experience wonderment when you saw a wildflower growing through a sidewalk crack? The bare roots of a tree clinging to the side of a rocky mountain? Sun stars sparkling on water? Bright green insects? Baby ducklings? A newborn child? The Milky Way?

Do you still feel a little thrill of joyful awe
when you see “God rays” streaming from above
through a break in the clouds? For many people, that sight is a touchstone for faith and wonder.  

How about when you see a full rainbow or a double one?

Let’s intend to experience wonder somehow, somewhere today. At least once.

Along with setting the intention to experience wonder, expect to be delighted. Give thanks for the awesome beauty you trust you will see. Open your mind, your heart, and your eyes. Your ears too. Notice what happens for you.

With reverence,
Charlene