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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

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

PEOPLE ARE BORN WITH BASIC GOODNESS

“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.” – Anne Frank

The story below demonstrates that “people are just people.” It’s also an example of basic human goodness and dignity. The gifts of reverence, compassion, and hope too. As Alan Cohen said, “Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters… Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.” 

My friend, Kathy, and I had just began an early morning beach walk before class at the University of Santa Monica. She and I were graduate students there. We hadn’t walked far when Kathy stopped and held her stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she said. She looked like she might faint too. I knew she had just started taking a bunch of vitamins and had taken them on an empty stomach that morning. With her leaning on me, we slowly made our way toward the shade under the Santa Monica Pier.

There was a man under the pier. I had noticed him as we approached. He looked like he had spent the night there, actually many nights. I avoided making eye contact.  

Once there, sure enough, Kathy was sick. Neither of us had water or a tissue.

Tenuously, the homeless man approached us. “I don’t have any water but you’re welcome to what I have,” he said, holding up a bag wrapped around a bottle of amber liquid.
He was sincere and kind, gentlemanly and generous.

In an instant, that man, and the whole situation of Kathy sick under the pier, went from ugly to beautiful and from scared to sacred. There was nothing “other” about him. Nothing offensive. Nothing frightening. There was nothing to judge. He was one of us, three people with basic goodness who happened to be under the pier at the same time.

With love, gratitude, and joy,
Charlene     

 

FINDER’S KEEPERS OR LOST AND FOUND

 

 

“Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.” ~  Bryant H. McGill

Several of my recent Touchstones have been about letting go of excess stuff – material things and emotional upsets. As often happens, I soon got to experience the topic I was writing about. I was put to the test. Well, as Terry Brooks and others say, “We are constantly being put to the test.” So what happened? And how did I do? you might ask.

After finding a few nice deals in a discount store, I carried my bag of purchases into the neighboring department store, which was extremely busy. In the crowd confusion, I somehow lost my bag from the previous store. Retracing my steps, searching the store, and checking with the staff were all unsuccessful. And at the end of the day nothing had been turned into lost and found.

Because the items were things I wanted to give to my grandchildren, I felt upset with the loss, upset with myself, and upset with whomever found that bag and kept it. For hours I could not shake my feelings of disappointment, frustration, and judgment. I certainly was not “traveling light” as yesterday’s touchstone prescribed. Finally, I remembered that I could think about it differently and bring myself closer to a state of inner peace. I decided to imagine the delight of a parent and child finding an abandoned bag, opening it, and seeing that it contained some things needed by the child for school. To them it might have seemed like something left by a heavenly or earthly angel. They might have felt extreme gratitude and joy. 

Did this happen? I don’t know. But I decided to reframe the incident and think of myself as being divinely used. I trusted that whomever found “my stuff” needed it more than I did. Shortly thereafter the emotional upset with myself was lifted.
I hope a little girl is happily wearing the oh-so-soft shirt I selected for Alexis.                             
Please know that letting go is not always easy for me.

I’ll be continuing to work on it.
Join me? Let’s see what happens,
especially when we’re tested. 

With love,
Charlene

P.S. – We can rise above circumstances,
be light, delight in life, see the good, and choose peace.

BE FULLY YOU AND ALLOW OTHERS TO BE UNIQUE TOO

 

 

 

 

 

“I find that the very things that I get criticized for, which is usually being different and just doing my own thing and just being original, is the very thing that’s making me successful.”     – Shania Twain

It takes courage to be ourselves. Self-love and respect too.

Along with a likelihood of leading us to success, being authentic can lead us to better health and more happiness.

For these and other reasons, let’s summon courage, love and reverence today and allow our true selves to show up in all that we do. Let’s encourage authenticity in others too.

Surely there will be greater hope for peace in our world when we recognize the beauty of everyone’s uniqueness.

Holding hope and faith,
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

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