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DO YOU KNOW HOW VALUABLE AND VALUED YOU ARE?

                             

“Promise me you’ll always remember:
you’re braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think,” 
said Christopher Robin
to his best friend, Pooh.

I now wish
to say the same thing to you. 
You’re also more beautiful
than you know
and more talented too.
You’re all this and more.
If only you knew,
you’d feel light, bright, and shiny
like a penny brand new.
May the love in your heart
help you know
this message is honest
and really true.

I believe, do you?
Charlene

A HELPFUL TAX TIP TO USE EVERY DAY

 

 

 

“We must care for each other more, and tax each other less.”  – Bill Archer

 

 

Although it’s posted on April 15, this reflection is not about paying income tax.  Consider that the word “taxing” also means exacting, onerous, rigorous, challenging, demanding, and tough. 

To what extent are you exacting about how things must be done? Do you often demand more and more of yourself and others? Are you a perfectionist? Do you have trouble saying “No” to any requests for your help. Do you celebrate projects completed and rest a bit before the next one? Or do you jump right in without a break?

Might you be “over-taxing” yourself and others with regard to accomplishments, affection, attention, anything?

If the answer is “Yes,” please refrain from judging yourself harshly. Avoid taxing yourself further with guilty thoughts and feelings and negative energy to carry.

We’re all learning how to maintain balance among all our needs, responsibilities, desires, and dreams. 

This “tip” begins with mindfulness and calls for daily doses love and compassion. For our own well-being and for greater peace among us, let’s care more and tax less. Let’s be kind.

​​​​​​​With love and compassion,
Charlene

DOES GRATITUDE ALWAYS LEAD TO JOY?

 

 

 

 

 

“The sixth gift is Joy. May it keep your heart open and filled with light.” – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth

 

 

I find that sincere gratitude always opens my heart to the joy that is naturally there. The blossom of joy that follows gratitude may or may not bloom into happiness. Happiness, of course, follows more readily when our hearts are not covered with a protective layer due to deep hurt, sadness, fear, grief or worry. In such times, we may feel as if we will never feel happy again.

But even at the dark and heavy times in my life, when I allowed authentic gratefulness for something–anything–to bubble up from my heart, some joy seeped through with it and gave me a small yet pleasant uplift.

Sometimes joy is like the Rose Bowl Parade of floral floats and marching bands. Other times joy is like a gentle, fragrant breeze on a summer night, barely there, so subtle one might not even notice it. Ahh. But when we do, that little petal of joy is soothing and sweet.

I am recalling times when I was seriously ill or heartbroken. I found that if I sat still, slowed and deepened my breath, and stayed in the present moment, some appreciation always emerged. It might have been for the color of my bedroom walls, or that my digestive system had worked easily, or that my back felt comfortably supported by the pillows behind me. Or, I noticed beauty in something in the room or in nature, outside the window. Or… the possibilities are endless.

I am offering this because I know that among us, always, there are people we know or friends we haven’t yet met who are experiencing one of those dark and heavy times. In particular, a comment to a post on one of my Facebook pages prompted this writing at this time. I think we’ve all known  times when inspirational messages and encouraging suggestions might seem like well-meaning but empty platitudes.

I suspect we’ve also experienced at least one time when the energy of someone’s robust joy felt painful upon our fragile state of being. Bright light joy upon a hurting heart can be like driving into the late afternoon sun in Arizona. It’s so blinding that you have to shut your eyes, look away, or turn to another direction. Have you ever felt like that?

At fragile times, I believe that loving acceptance, along with compassionate kindness and reverent listening to understand, is the most wise and caring thing we can offer to one another. Although, I admit that sometimes I have offered advice instead of giving the gift of simply being there. But we live and we learn, yes?

What’s your experience? Both on the giving and the receiving side? And with joy itself?

With love,
Charlene

FOOD FOR THE SOUL – TODAY’S TWELVE GIFTS TOUCHSTONES

 

 

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder…”

~ Lee Ann Womack

 

 

 

Me too, Lee Ann.  I wish that wonder would be protected and nourished in every child and adult.

I believe we can’t actually lose the wonderment we were born with, just as we can’t lose our innate gifts of hope, joy, courage, compassion, love or any of the qualities that are a part of our essence. But we can lose our sense of them.  It seems to me that we all sometimes lose our sensing of the beauty that’s built into our being.  If we ignore them, we can get out of touch with all of our inner gifts.

That’s why I write “touchstones” and share them freely each day. They feed my gifts. They feed my soul. And sharing them doesn’t diminish them one bit. In fact, the more they’re shared, the more their nutritional power grows like yeasted dough.

I’m resolving to deepen my awareness of and appreciation for the gifts of life in the New Year. Care to join me in this intention for 2018? That’s all we need to begin: the intention. We’ll be guided further.

Already I’m feeling a surge of increased enthusiasm for messages that uplift and encourage us. And not only for the touchstones I compose. I’ll be watching for inspiration in books, films, music, news and all forms of expression and communication. If you don’t already receive Today’s Touchstone via email, perhaps you’ll subscribe now, using the form on this website.

Before closing, I’d like to add a few more lines from the well-known song recorded by Lee Ann Womack:

“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance”

With joy,
Charlene

GET ON WITH LIVING AND LOVING

As Leo Buscaglia said, “Get on with living and loving. You don’t have forever.”

We don’t. So let’s aim to release all the things that block living and loving, such as regrets, resentments, guilt, shame, blame, hate, fear, and fault finding. Let’s let them go and make room for love, compassion, hope, joy, courage, wisdom, faith, strength and more.

Consider this intention-anchoring activity: Several times throughout the day, take deep breaths. As you do, imagine drawing all the energy of those love-blocking things into that breath. Imagine expelling them in the exhale. Now breathe in all that’s love related. If this helpful, repeat as often as you wish. I like to do this outdoors and add bubble-blowing to the activity. I imagine the released stuff carried off and away in the bubbles.

Of course, there are many more ways to approach freeing ourselves from guilts and grudges, including professional therapy to work through deep-seated issues. My suggested activities are meant to strengthen intentions and to use imagination to build well-being. As Adele Brookman said, “Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to life.”

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