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ARE YOU WILLING TO SEE DIFFERENTLY?

 

“Seeing things from a different point of view can help us understand why other people act the way they do.”      ~ Sean Covey

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we would all benefit if we strengthened our willingness and ability to “see differently.”

 

“Do you see what I see?” The Little Drummer Boy lyrics go. “Do you hear what I hear?”

 

The thing is: We don’t ever see and hear exactly like someone else does. We come close in some cases. Or, we seem to because our opinions match.

I have posted on the topic several times because, instead of lamenting about growing divisiveness, we can proactively work toward building greater understanding, respect, cooperation and peace among us.  

Let’s practice this in a light, fun way today. At least three times – or as often as you wish – change your physical position with someone. Exchange seats at the dinner table, on a sofa, standing and talking, in a car – get the idea?  

Notice how you literally “see differently” with your eyes. 

Wishing us new ah-has,

Charlene

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

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

 

 

 

 

TIMELESS PRAYERS FOR UNITY AND PEACE

Yesterday, after attending a Memorial Day ceremony in our community, my thoughts expanded to a private commemoration in my heart. It was a reminiscing and missing of all my family members who have died.

My grandmother stood out among them.

When I saw this quote from Abraham Lincoln about his mother’s prayers, I saw a connection of three pieces.

The first piece was that a portion of Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg was cited at the service. Hearing Lincoln’s famous words lifted me to hope that our ideals of equality, freedom, and the power of We The People will not be lost and that our sense of unity will be restored.

The second piece was the prominence of my grandmother in my private remembrance.

The third piece connected the first two. When I happened upon Lincoln’s quote about his mother, I felt a kinship with him. My grandmother’s prayers affect me to this day.

When I was a young child, my Grandma Gorda told me how she prayed every day for me and for all our family here in America.

She also prayed for all our family back in the old country, which was Czechoslovakia at the time. She knew of just a few specific people there. But she also knew that families grow and that we are connected even if we are far apart, even if we don’t even meet.

She prayed for all family members here and there, all the living, all who would come into the world, and all who departed. Then she prayed for the whole world and for peace.

Without being able to describe it back then, my grandmother gave me a expanded sense of time and how we are all connected.

Not only am I affected by her because I now pray in a similar way. But I feel as if her timeless, endless prayers touch me every day. I feel as if her loving prayers reach my own grandchildren and that they will go on to reach theirs.

May loving prayers be touching all of your family too.

May we someday soon see that we are one human family, one with nature too, and live together in peace.

May we live this day as if it is so.

With love, kindness, and reverence,
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!

ANOTHER LESSON FROM TURTLE

“After a long, lonesome and scary time…
the people listened and began to hear…
And to see God in one another…
and in the beauty of all the Earth.
Old Turtle smiled.
And so did God.”

~ Douglas Wood

 

Are you familiar with the book, Old Turtle?

I thought of it when I saw sea turtles at Caneel Bay on the island of St. John and when I wrote the previous message.

Here’s the essence of that story.

There was time before humans when all creation could speak and understand one another.

One day the breezes, the stones, the mountains, the fish, the stars, the ants, the antelopes,the trees, the islands, the sun, the waters…everything….started describing God. And they began to argue.

“She is a hunter, roared the lion.
“God is gentle,” chirped the robin.
“He is powerful,” growled the bear.

The arguments grew louder and fiercer.

Finally, Old Turtle spoke.
She said that God is all that they described and more.

“God is indeed deep,
she said to the fish in the sea;          
and much higher than high,
she told the mountains.
He is swift and free as the wind,
and still and solid as a great rock,
she said to the breezes and stones…
God is all that we dream of,
and all that we seek,
all that we come from
and all that we find.
God IS.”

The message is already powerful.
But there’s more.
It’s about the coming of people.

“They will be strong yet tender,
a message of love from God to the Earth,
and a prayer from the earth back to God…

But the people forgot…
they were a message of love
and a prayer from the earth.
They began to argue…
and hurt one another…
And they hurt the earth…
…even the forests
began to die…”

At that crisis time,
all the creatures began to speak
to the people from their ancient wisdom.

“After a long, lonesome and scary time…
the people listened and began to hear…”

May we soon get better
at listening
and hearing
and honoring
how we all see differently.

May we revere the earth
and all creatures too.
And see God in one another
and in the beauty of the earth.

Imagine if we each did that.

Seeing it so,
Charlene

 

A PERSPECTIVE ON HOPE

 

 

 


“This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”
                                ~ Hafiz the Poet

 
I love this quote.  One reason is that I love maps. Maps of all kinds, including funny treasure maps.

But mostly it is because this quote reminds me to trust that there are blessings available in every circumstance, every challenge, every opportunity, every loss, every gain, every moment.

Whenever we think we are off course – perhaps lost  – and feeling fearful, the loving message of this quote can help us shift into a hope-filled perspective.

To illustrate how, I’d like to welcome a guest blogger today. Jesse Gros is a fellow classmate and alum from the University of Santa Monica where we both studied spiritual psychology.

Here is Jesse’s example:

WHY I (ALMOST) NEVER GET STRESSED OUT…

When I was a college senior, I came back from my study abroad trip with Hep A. I picked it up in Morocco eating street food. Or maybe it was from sharing lunch with the homeless guys under the bridge by my house in Sevilla. Who knows for sure.

My doctor back in the US told me it would take me a couple years to fully recover. He also said that if I allowed myself to get stressed, it could trigger a relapse that could severely damage my liver.

So, at 21 years old, I made not-getting-stressed my number one priority. I was scared that even one pre-midterm, mini freak out could send me back to the hospital. During the following year, I learned to change my thoughts, breathe, meditate, and drink lots of “calming” tea. I learned to treat stress, not as something to learn to tolerate or adapt to, but to avoid at all costs…

What a gift it was to be told, “Stress will kill you.” Which we know is true on a long enough timeline…

Thank you for sharing this experience, Jesse.

We can readily see how a serious threat to his life at a young age affected the rest of Jesse’s life in a positive way.

Jesse’s story reminds me to take stress more seriously in my own life. While stress may not be as extreme a danger for most of us as it was for Jesse, it is a threat to all of us. Stress does kill! It weakens our immune system, for one thing.

Jesse’s example deepens my commitment to stay in balance, to nurture well-being, to meditate daily, to be at peace, to forgive, to love, and to laugh…often.

Consider holding this quote as a touchstone, especially when faced with a situation that seems frightening.

Imagine a map of your life journey. Step by step you are circled, watched. Not with criticism. Not with judgment. But with unconditional love and guidance.

May we believe in every moment there are opportunities for healings, learnings, awakenings, and advances that will benefit us for the rest of our lives and will help others too.

 

Jesse Gros is a life coach, adventurer, philanthropist and owner of Insight Adventures. He is also the author of Your Wild and Precious Life: Adventures in Conscious Creation

 

 

 

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