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A REMINDER TO BE REAL

 

 

Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.”

 

– Brene Brown

It takes courage to be vulnerable. Fortunately we all have courage built in to us. Of course, we need to use wisdom along with courage regarding how much to share in a given situation. But even if what we communicate is appropriately on a surface level, we can still share it in a way that keeps us honest and authentic.

With courage, let’s remove any masks
we’re wearing and bravely show the world
the magnificent real person that we are.                    

Be you. Be real. You are beautiful.
Strong and courageous too.

Truly,
​​​​​​​Charlene

 

HOW DO WE FIND AND GROW OUR INNER WEALTH?

 

 

“I’d gone though my life believing in the strength and competence of others; never my own. Now, dazzled, I discovered that my capacities were real. It was like finding a fortune in the lining of an old coat.”                 ~ Joan Mills

We’ve probably all known the delight of finding money when it was needed. I can recall college days and newlywed times of finding a few dollar bills in a purse or a handful of change between sofa pillows. I wouldn’t say I was dazzled, but I was elated. I might have even jumped for joy.

Did you know that about $2 billion in lottery prizes go unclaimed every year? And there’s an estimated $850 million lying unclaimed in lost and forgotten bank accounts.

What is the undiscovered and untapped wealth within us worth? Far more than any amount of money.

If we only knew how to readily claim and develop our inner resources of love, talent, courage, hope, imagination, compassion, faith – all our gifts – we could achieve a rare way of living life, being fully ourselves.

With faith and enthusiasm, let’s look within ourselves every day for discoveries of our gifts. Let’s also do something, however small, to cultivate and grow them everyday. One way to grow our gifts is to use them everyday.

“How do I do that?” you might ask. There are many ways. I will offer two here.

At least once each day stretch beyond blah feelings, angry feelings, hurtful feelings and choose to act kindly, caringly. In other words, decide to use the gift of love even if you don’t feel like it. 

To symbolize and strengthen your intention to grow your inner wealth, start with a clear jar similar to the one in the photo. Every time you notice a demonstration of any one of the gifts – either within yourself or another person – add a coin to the jar, even if it’s just a penny. Every seemingly little penny will contribute to the growth of actual money in the jar just as every seemingly little act of courage or statement of hope will be growing your conscious awareness and appreciation of your inner wealth.

Watch for examples of all the forms of strength in your personal life, in the world, in books, films, everywhere. Look for the word “strength” on billboards, on TV ads, everywhere. Become more aware of strength, especially in yourself.  Do this with each of The Twelve Gifts: strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith.  If you do this, whether or not you use the money jar, you will be growing your gifts. But the visible symbol and action of adding coins to the jar will help anchor your intention and commitment. It will also be fun.

You are likely to collect some interesting stories about each gift too. If you feel inclined to add any here, please do! We will all benefit. Send your story the contact box or enter it in the comment area. If you wish to know of some true story examples of others growing their gifts, you can find a collection of them in TOUCHSTONES: STORIES FOR LIVING THE TWELVE GIFTS. This book is available both as a paperback and as an e-book. You can also access stories about each of the gifts right here, on this home page, to the right of this blog. 

Happy hunting!

With love,
Charlene

 

 

 

 

 

 

With joy,
Charlene

THE TWELVE GIFTS PATH TO WELLNESS

 

 

 

 

 

“My own path towards wellness has been a long and dynamic one. It’s taught me that healing from the inside out takes time and there can be great value in various sources of guidance.”      – Carre Otis

What is your path like? What does it include?

Mine follows a trail through hope and faith while tapping into strength and courage; applying lots of kindness and self-compassion; daily doses of joy; appreciating beauty in many forms; time in nature…and more…including prayer; meditation; inspirational reading; savoring scents, sights, sounds and tastes…touch too…as in dry body brushing, gentle massage, warm salted and essential-oil-scented baths and Reiki treatments; visualization…that’s a major one! Do you visualize the outcomes you desire? What promotes well-being for you? What helps you heal? I’d love to hear from you! 

(This photo was taken by me while walking on a path near our home when my husband and I lived in Sedona, Arizona. I was healing from lymphoma at the time. Along with standard medical chemotherapy, I did “apply” daily doses of The Twelve Gifts. Love, joy, beauty, hope, faith, compassion..they all promote healing and well-being.)

FEAR: HERE’S A WAY TO LET IT BE AND LET IT GO

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt 

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you.” – Soledad O’Brien

“If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

FEAR. We all experience it. Whatever the cause, fear limits our ability to face the challenge and address the issue.  So it’s wise to release fear. Not resist it, deny it, or stifle it, but let it be and then let it go.  Here’s a simple tool you may wish to try the next time you feel fear for any reason. All you need is an ice cube, something to hold it – I like to use a clear custard cup – just a few minutes of your time, and sincere intention.

ICE CUBE RITUAL

Upon waking or before you begin your work day, remove an ice cube from your freezer and place it in a cup, saucer, or bowl. Set the container in a place where it will remain undisturbed.

See the ice cube as representing fear, your own fear in all the ways it shows up, as well as fear in the world. You may wish to use a cube for each fear you identify.  Silently or out loud say, “This represents fear. I am willing to allow my feelings of fear to soften and melt away today.” Go about your day.

Later in the day, bring your attention again to the container. Notice the water now in the liquid state. See it as representing fear transformed. In your own way, bless the water. Use this water to nourish a plant in your home. Or, go outdoors and pour it onto a place where, symbolizing your intention of contributing to healing on Earth, this modicum of water can nourish some living thing.

Of course, it is not always this easy. But sometimes it is. And nearly always it is at least a start. I learned this when I faced a life-threatening illness. Since you may appreciate the story behind my Ice Cube Ritual, I am sharing it here.

FACING CANCER

In September of 2000, I was diagnosed with a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for which present-day medicine says there is no cure. When I learned that cancer cells were growing in lymph nodes in my throat and abdomen and in my bone marrow, I felt as if I had been spun around and punched in the stomach. For several days I could digest only small bits of medical information at a time. I glanced at diagrams of mutant lymph cells then quickly looked away. Like most cancer patients, I experienced many emotions. At first I felt frozen with fear. I mourned the lost health I had taken for granted. Then I became determined to heal. 

The metaphor of waging war with cancer is useful for some patients, but I did not want to hold a violent attitude toward my body nor hate any part of it. I didn’t want to fight cancer, but without a doubt I was determined to release it from my system.   

I sensed that my cancer diagnosis was a call to love my whole self more and to better appreciate the trillions of healthy cells that were living in harmony with one another.  Along with treatments with a biologic agent (Rituxan) and standard chemotherapy (CHOP), I used many complementary therapies, including meditation and visualization, which relaxed and empowered me. I drank large quantities of purified water; ate nutritiously; and further nourished my cells with music, aromatherapy, and therapeutic touch. I prayed, watched funny movies and read spiritual stories.  During that time, I was also inspired to write a fable. It became The Twelve Gifts for Healing, a story about an ailing woman who journeys to seek healing wisdom from a wise woman named Mater. Like those women, everyday I recited twelve specific blessings for myself and all others.  One of them was “May you allow fear to soften and melt away.” I was inspired to act out the intention by witnessing the simple, inevitable melting of an ice cube at room temperature.   

So I went to my kitchen, opened the freezer and removed one ice cube. For a moment I cradled it in the palm of my hand. I let it rest there and noticed the chill on my skin. Gently, I placed it in a saucer and centered it on the table.  Later I returned to see and appreciate the ice cube’s transformation to water.  

Hundreds of times since then, I have repeated this ritual, whenever fear shows up about cancer or a situation in my family or global warming or tension in the world or anything at all. You may wish to try this ritual yourself whenever you feel fear about health, relationships, finances – anything in your personal world or in the world at large.    

In September 2001, after the completion of chemotherapy, CT scans and a bone marrow biopsy revealed no evidence of cancer.
            
I would not have consciously chosen cancer as a teacher, but I appreciate the valuable lessons it offered.

I guess I needed to learn more because I faced cancer again in another form. In May of 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Both cancer adventures led me to look deeper into many things, especially about nurturing and using our inherent gifts of strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith for healing. I discovered a lot but there’s so much more for me to learn, for all of us I think, about the inner resources we all have.

One of my favorite quotes conveys a sense of what’s possible when we begin to realize these gifts: 

“The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS – YES YOU CAN!

 

 

 

“Passion is holy…If we do not give outward expression to our passions, we will experience self-immolation – the spontaneous combustion of our souls.”                              ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Our creative expression does not have to succeed in the world. It does not have to make a fortune for us. We may not even break even. What matters is that we honor our inspirations and give expression to them in some way. 
Yesterday’s quote for Today’s Touchstone was “Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”  (Maurice Setter)
There are many situations in which we may miss the joy because we did not strike gold, win the gold medal, or achieve the golden title.  

When I published The Twelve Gifts of Birth, I hoped it would at least break even. I just knew I had to bring it into the world as best I could. Reaching sweet success with it was like icing an already delicious lemon yellow cake with honeyed icing.

Some books have not done so well. For example, my children’s picture book, A Perfect Name, did not even go into a second printing. 

I have a close friend who has faithfully honored her creative passions with card-making and selling whimsical gifts for the home. You can hear the joy in her voice when she’s working with her artistic expressions. She hasn’t reached gold. Not yet, I should say. Who knows what’s ahead? 

Actually, she has achieved gold – gold for her soul. She may not yet have made a lot of money. But for sure her soul will not combust, burn a slow death, or die from neglect.

We are all talented in so many ways. Some we have not yet recognized. No matter how old or young or busy or poor we feel, whatever our present circumstances, let’s take a few deep breaths and bring freshness not only into our lungs but into our minds, hearts, and souls as well.

Be ready. Inspiration can come in any moment. Welcome it. Honor it.

Joyfully express yourself. Follow your dreams. With love and courage you can. You will!

Hope and faith too,
Charlene

PS – Another example is a tongue-in-cheek little booklet I produced titled, You’re Right. The inspiration for it came with fiery passion. I paid for a simple design, did the necessary filings, and had a couple hundred printed for family members and a few friends. I knew that product would not deliver financial rewards. But it brought joy to me and laughter to others. We all deserve to experience this kind of joy. I would love to hear your stories about this issue.

FINDING HUMOR WHEN FACING CANCER

“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

                             ~ Dr. Seuss

Everything has the potential to be funny. Even cancer. You may remember Gilda Radner and her book, It’s Always Something. Gilda was great at finding the funny.

When facing cancer – or any illness or life challenge – it helps a lot to tap into our inner strength, to hold hope, and to find the funny. Reba McEntire said it well:

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”

When I shared the news of my breast cancer diagnosis with you last May, I wrote seriously, with backbone strength and wishbone hope about the healing power of love.

I’d like to give my funny bone a try today. With joy, here’s my story continued:

So, with relative grace and ease I had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

During the weeks leading up to surgery, I joked a bit about the silver lining. You know me, always looking for uplifts – uplifting thoughts, uplifting feelings. Without having to pay for elective surgery, I was going to end up with a body “uplift!”

Yes, focusing on the positive, I looked forward to having a younger-looking, more perky chest. And I got it. There were other benefits. I could wear tank tops and skinny-strap sundresses without a bra.

Well, one day about a month ago, I noticed that the left side was way perkier on the top than the right. A closer look showed that the “natural slope” of the implant on the left was upside down. Somehow, it had spun around.

When I learned that happens sometimes if the cavity is a bit large for the implant used, I figured, kind of like “what goes up must come down” that “what spun could spin again.” And maybe I could help it.

So that’s what I did. Or tried. And I did get it to turn. But it got stuck half way. So then I had a whole new look, with the “natural slope” going sideways!

The good news is that, somehow during sleep, the implant found its way into proper positioning.

The bad news is that, after swimming, it had spun again into the upside-down position.

But more good news! If I swam some more, it could spin some more.

So now, when I’m done swimming, I check to see…

Even perkiness? Yes? I grab my towel.
​​​​​​​No? Back in for another lap or two or whatever it takes.

Hey, I just might get in better shape!

You know the song, “I Hope You Dance”?
I hope you do. And laugh, too!
Today and every day.

With hope, love, and laughter,
Charlene

PS – I’ve posted a picture of the younger me, when everything was perkier!

THE SOUL OF AMERICA

 

 

“In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet… Love is wise; hatred is foolish.”
                                                      ~  Bertrand Russell

 

Like millions of other people in America and around the world, I am deeply concerned not only about the direction, the health, and the safety of our country, I am concerned about its soul. Our soul.

How did meanness and bullying become acceptable? How did bravado come to be admired? How and why did fear, hate and disrespect erupt and spread like a disease among us?

I’ve heard the theories – perhaps you have too – that hidden dis-ease rising to the surface is a good thing.

Actually, it CAN be a good thing, but it IS NOT automatically a good thing. Continue reading

APPLYING THE HEALING POWER OF LOVE TO BREAST CANCER

Love And Tenderness Of Cats

 

“Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy.”
~
Sai Baba

 

 

Love and healing are primary themes in my life now. They have been for many months, actually years. Whenever I see messages of fear and hate in the news – when I see reports of violence – what comes to the forefront for me are thoughts and quotes like “Love heals” from The Buddha.  

I’m focused on the healing power of love in a very personal way now too. And I wish to share the reason.

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. Fortunately the tumors are small and treatable.

Along with embracing traditional medicine, I am using many complementary approaches to balance, heal, renew, and strengthen my whole body. In part, that means loving and caring for every little cell, every organ, and every body system as well as looking deeper for what else is calling for healing in me now.

Along with good nutrition (the photo here is of me about to drink a double shot of wheat grass), positive visualization, prayer, meditation, etc., wheatgrass shot
I am bringing the powers of courage, faith, hope, joy
– all of life’s gifts, God’s gifts – to this new adventure.

For it is that too. An adventure. A challenge, yes. But also an adventure. An opportunity to explore and to heal deeply on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. To learn and grow too.

While I won’t be focusing on this personal healing adventure in many blogs, I will share a bit from time to time here and in Today’s Touchstone reflections.  I’ll offer insights and discoveries that I think you may wish to consider…things that may apply to anyone and everyone’s life journey.

I hope you will enjoy such sharings and benefit from them in some way. I would appreciate hearing if you do or do not. I always welcome your feedback.

In the meantime, I appreciate your caring and pouring out love to yourselves, to me, to one another, to all your beloveds  and to your-not-so-beloveds too.  May we all aim to heal all our wounds.

Thank you.

Kindly,
Charlene