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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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

SOUL TO SOUL

                     “Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” ~ George Eliot

​Using our gifts, let’s be that: true, loving human souls, blessed influences in the lives of others.

How? First, we aim to be authentic, courageously ourselves, centered in our loving essence. That itself will be a blessing to many.

SOUL TO SOULNext, have a “soul to soul” with at least one person today and every day. What’s a “soul to soul”? It’s like a “heart to heart.” Except, instead of having an actual heartfelt conversation with someone, you communicate “soul to soul.”

Visualize, with a caring feeling, that you are connecting and communicating with a particular person. Set ego aside and allow a wise and loving exchange to happen, “soul to soul.” Even if you don’t “hear” anything back from the other soul, which is often the case, just send a message of respect, acceptance, and encouragement. Or, you can simply say, with reverence,  Namaste or The Light in me honors the Light in you.

You can choose someone you easily talk with or someone who avoids close sharing and intimacy. You can even do this with an estranged family member or friend. Healing miracles can come from this practice.

May wisdom guide the way for each of us to become true loving souls and blessed influences in the world.

Toward peace,
Charlene

APPRECIATING ALL THE FLAVORS OF LIFE

Slice of lemon pie

 

 

“If life were predictable, it would…be without flavor.”                               
                                          ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Yesterday I was looking for a quote about flavor because I wanted to share something about it today.

For many years, during my morning “start the day ritual,” I have read a certain affirmation which begins “With wonder and joy I am dancing with Spirit and tasting the sweetness of life…”
Yesterday I got the message in my mind and heart that life has many more flavors that sweetness and it would help if I would accept, respect, and appreciate them all.

What do I mean by this?
During a healing stay at the Chopra Center in 2000 when I faced cancer, I learned about the Ayurvedic approach to eating and healing.

According to Ayurvedic teaching, it is healthy and wise – and tasty too – to include in every meal the flavors of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent.

There is certainly something good about this mix of flavors in cooking and eating, yes?

So perhaps we can shift from judging certain “flavors” of life as unpleasant or even bad and welcome – and even savor – them all in our daily experience.

Hmm. To what gift does this reflection most relate? Imagination? Let’s imagine life as a wondrous feast today and appreciate that we have been invited.

Love and blessings for your day!

HOPE FOR ALL AGES AND STAGES OF LIFE

 A week ago, Suffield High School Principal Donna Hayward in Suffield, Connecticut delivered a commencement address that was inspired by The Twelve Gifts of Birth.  I’m sharing it here because I believe Ms. Hayward’s message of hope and courage is for all of us. Thank you, Donna, for permission to post your speech along with your photo. I hope to meet you someday, new friend!  And thank you, dear reader. As always, I would love to hear your comments.  

Donna HaywardClass of 2014, you are just minutes from receiving your high school diploma. Your parents are wondering how you got here so fast, as it seems such a short time ago that you were born. Just a few years ago, you took your first steps, spoke your first words, got on the school bus kindergarten bound, learned to ride a bike. This is a natural time for your parents to reflect on the last 18 or so years and for us, your teachers, to reflect on whatever role we have played in your upbringing. As it turns out, teaching and parenting are closely related.

When my daughter was born, we received the usual tidal wave of gifts – blankets, cute little outfits, and baby gear of all kinds. One gift, in particular, though stood out as it arrived without a note or tag from the sender to indicate who had given it. One day, it simply arrived in my mailbox – its message clear – but to this day I don’t know who sent it. It was a book entitled, The Twelve Gifts of Birth, by Charlene Costanzo and it details the gifts or qualities bestowed upon each of you upon your birth as a human. “Royal dignity was yours from the day you were born,” the book begins – and on that day and on a day such as this all parents and teachers hope their children know these gifts. My role today is to remind you that you do all have them and to implore you to use them consciously and with purpose from this day forward.

The first gift is Hope and each of you were born with it. Continue reading

WHEN DESPAIR AND FEAR GROW: REST IN THE GRACE OF THE WORLD

three cranes at pond“When despair for the world grows in me…
I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.”   

                 – Wendell Berry

 

In The Peace of Wild Things,
poet Wendell Berry shares the power
that nature holds for him. 

 

 

When he fears what the future might hold 
for him and his children,
he goes to “where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.”

In the midst of the world’s business and busyness,
whether we go in reality or in our imagination,
let’s often bring ourselves 
to a place where we can be soothed, healed, and uplifted     
by the grace of the natural world.
May we rest in beauty and peace, and faith too,
with reverence for life as a touchstone. 

A LESSON FROM WALT DISNEY: KEEP GOOD IDEAS ALIVE!

Dream Builders

During a reent visit to Disney World, I visited the “One Man’s Dream” exhibit and watched a film about the life of Walt Disney.

 

Despite many failures, Mr. Disney stayed faithful to his dreams and not only built an enormously successful business empire; he continues to bring joy into the world and to so many people, even after his death.

For me the main take-away message from that film was: Cherish imagination and inspiration. Nourish good ideas. Don’t let then die.

 

Coincidently, the day after that Disney World visit, I came across a feature about Disney World engineering feats on Modern Marvels on the History Channel.

 

Again the main take-away message for me was: Keep good ideas alive! The episode even referred to “Keep good ideas alive” being a kind of mantra at Disney.

 

When I heard that, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to work in an environment that fostered that philosophy!” And then I realized how each and every one of us can do that for ourselves. We can honor our good ideas, nourish them like little seedlings, and help them grow.

 

We can. And we must, I think.

 

It’s my belief that we are all meant to be “Imagineers,” whether or not we have any work affiliation with Disney. We all have the gift of imagination. We all get inspired with ideas. Not every thought is a good idea, of course. We do have to distinguish and discern.

 

But we all do get good ideas. The especially good ideas are the ones that can help make the world a better place, not necessarily in a big Disney-like way. Although, who knows where a seemingly-small good idea may lead? Consider how the Disney empire began with a drawing of one little mouse.

 

The best good ideas come through our hearts as well as our heads. What good ideas have been gifted to you? Is there something nudging at you now as you read this, asking for your attention?

 

Besides keeping alive the ideas that use our particular expression of talent, let’s keep alive good ideas for the world. For example, let’s keep alive the idea that every man, woman, and child on the planet can have their basic needs met. Imagine every person having shelter, food, water, clothing, an education and health care…basic well-being.

 

What a good idea! A GREAT idea! And it IS possible!

 

Let’s not let naysayers and “bad” news mongers lead us into thinking we are foolish to dream or that we are doomed.

 

Let’s keep good ideas alive! Let’s help make them grow. How? Begin by visualizing good ideas as real. Nourish them in your mind and heart. See good ideas for the world and your own personal good ideas coming into reality. And each time you see it, say “Thank you.”