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A WISDOM LESSON FROM TWO VERY DIFFERENT UNCLES: DON’T COMPARE

Way back when my daughters were in elementary school, more than 30 years ago, I noticed a difference in the way one of my husband’s uncles and one of my uncles treated the children in our families. My uncle, Ray, paid attention to what children said. He really listened. You could tell by the questions he asked. He also genuinely enjoyed playing board games and engaging in contests with them. He watched as they did magic tricks, twirled a baton, and performed other skills they were learning. My husband’s uncle, Spike, did not relate as well to children. In fact, sometimes he was dismissive and gruff toward them.  So I judged him in this regard as “not good enough.”

One summer day we had a serious plumbing problem in our home. The basement in our century-old Victorian farmhouse was filling with sewage back-up. As soon as he heard about it, Uncle Spike showed up in hip boots, prepared to help drain and clean the basement. He showed no reluctance or reservation about dealing with the mess and the stench. Again, I compared the uncles. What I saw led me closer to accepting and appreciating people as they are. While my Uncle Ray was great with kids, he could not fix a thing and he would not have been willing to enter that basement and try. The memory of Uncle Spike in his hip boots reminds me that we all have different personalities and skill sets. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We’re all doing our best. And we’re all still learning. 

I included this story in Touchstones: Stories for Living The Twelve Gifts, which was published in 2012. I’m posting it here and now, in part, because my Aunt Angie, my last relative from my parents’ generation, died last month. I almost didn’t go to the funeral because it required a lot of travel. But when I thought of all the love and lasting life lessons I received from her and from all the aunts, uncles, and grandparents in both my family and my husband’s–as well as from our parents–I knew I had to attend to honor them all and to be with all my cousins as we step up to be the elder generation. I hope that the way I live my life leaves some lasting life lessons on the children in the generations coming up behind us, especially the lesson to love and appreciate one another without comparisons and judgments. I also want them to know that the practice of this principle should not be limited to family, nor to just family and friends. It’s a wise and powerful lesson for all to be applied to all. 

For peace,
Charlene

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

“It’s a paradox: When we have been sick, we appreciate health; when we make up after a fight, we rediscover friendship; when we are close to death, we love life.” ~Piero Ferrucci

Consider what happens in the aftermath of tragedies. We experience increases of tenderness, kindness, hope, love, and helpfulness. There’s a greater sense of pulling together, a desire to build unity, and gratitude for the good things in life.

Why does it take a shock to call forth these resources from the depths in us?  Why do they go dormant again? 

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I can imagine what life would be like if we practiced gratitude, kindness, and helpfulness every day.

Let’s keep it simple and simply be kind to everyone we encounter as we celebrate the good things in life and Life Itself.

With joy,
Charlene

LET’S WARM FEAR, MELT HATE, — USE RESPECT, AND MAKE KINDNESS OUR NATURAL STATE

 

 

 

“Unity is strength, division is weakness.” – Swahili Proverb

 

We need more light now, light to see clearly, light to lift our spirits, and light to find our way to unity.

Much in the news has been dark. The good news is that we have a great deal of light within us. We also have reverence, compassion, hope, and love. These gifts and others were factory-installed. Even if they have been covered with layers of fear, hate, and blame, these powerful qualities are a part of our essence. They can be reached. Within compassion there is the kindness we all need to be giving and receiving.  Respect is a part of the gift of reverence. We know what hope is and why we need it. Love has healing power, and don’t we need healing?

Today is a great day for reaching inside and bringing respect, kindness, hope, and love into the world; using these gifts everywhere we go; and applying them generously in every way we can.

If we do this day-by-day, one-by-one we can warm the cold “fear/hate/blame” climate that has settled over our land. We can melt the hard divisiveness that has been fostered. We can restore the sense of togetherness and unity we need to be strong and free.

Yes. It will take a lot of one-by-ones. True. But it’s possible. It’s do-able. And there’s much to gain if we do, and much at stake if we don’t. For inspiration, please consider these quotes:

“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.” – Sonia Gandhi.

“No doubt, unity is something to be desired, to be striven for, but it cannot be willed by mere declarations.” – Theodore Bikel

“Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.” – Ron Hall

Are you in? I am.

With faith,
Charlene

WISDOM IS WHISPERING. ARE YOU HEARING?

 

 

 

“The tenth gift is wisdom. Wisdom will lead you through knowledge to understanding. May you hear its soft voice.” ~ from The Twelve Gifts of Birth

When I came across this image, I immediately thought of this wisdom quote in The Twelve Gifts of Birth. For me, the book morphing into nature represents knowledge transforming into deep understanding in a beautiful way. Also, whenever I am in mountains and forests, by the sea, or in any natural setting, many of The Twelve Gifts are stirred in me, among them: wisdom. Strength, beauty, compassion, hope, joy, imagination, love, reverence, and faith are usually stirred and nourished too. 

If you can, spend some time in nature today. Everyday. We all need regular doses of vitamin N. Regular reflection is good for us too. There are many ways to reflect. Here’s one way: 

Please clear your mind as best you can. Take several deep breaths. Place your dominant hand over your heart and your other hand over your belly. Intend to open your heart and engage with your gut feelings. Tune in.

Now look at the photo. What are you thinking? Feeling? Knowing?

Reread the quote. Consider each sentence. Notice what you are thinking, feeling, and knowing.

Now recall a time when you experienced wisdom resonating, or activating, or growing, or awakening in you. Was it like an ah-ha? Was it an intuitive knowing? What was it like? Have you ever heard or felt an inner “Yes” or “No” or other instruction?

We all have valuable wisdom stories. Perhaps just one or a few seem significant to you. Maybe many do. If you feel inclined to share one, please do. I’d love to hear from you.

With love and appreciation,
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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

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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