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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

 

 

 

 

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!

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

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

ABOUT BEAUTY, FROM A RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST

Tree in a meadow

“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice its knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.”
~ Matthew Fox

 


I have often used polished stones as a way to demonstrate this message about beauty and imperfection.

When I give polished stones away at school presentations and workshops, I invite everyone to look closely and notice all the little nicks and scratches on the stones. Yes, they are strong and beautiful – the agates, the ambers, the amethysts, the apache tears, and the aquamarines, to name just a few. And, they are not perfect. Like us.

Another take-away from the stones is this: Colorful polished stones in circle
the stones come in all different colors,
shapes, and sizes. Like us.
And they are all beautiful. Like us.

Today and every day, let’s focus on the good and the beautiful in ourselves, others, and the world.

From a recovering perfectionist…

With love and compassion,
Charlene

AN EXAMPLE OF STRENGTH AND COURAGE

In my previous post I presented the entire speech made by Principal Donna Hayward to the 2014 graduating class of Suffield High School in Suffield, CT.  While the whole commencement address is powerful, I want to highlight this extraordinary example of strength and courage. May the actions of Iqbal Masih and a group of Canadian 12-year-old children move us to use the gifts of strength and courage however we can, in ways large and small, day by day. Thank you again, Donna, for permission to share your words. 

“…This year, I also learned the story of a young boy named Iqbal Masih and his story illustrates how each of us can fight injustice in our own way in our own world.  Iqbal was a young Pakistani boy, who was sold into bondage by his parents at the age of four in order to pay off a debt of what amounted to about $16.  He worked for years, chained to a weaving loom, fashioning the tiny knots in Pakistani rugs with his small fingers.  Although he worked alongside dozens of other children with the same fate, somehow Iqbal felt inside himself a flame of injustice and rebelled against it at the age of ten by running away from his master.  When he did, he happened upon an activist in the village square, making a speech about how child slavery had been outlawed – a surprise to Iqbal – and the young boy told a police officer standing nearby that he, in fact, was a child slave.  He led the officer back to his master, anticipating justice.  Instead, the officer was bribed by the slave owner and left Iqbal behind – the boy facing a cruel punishment instead of the justice he sought.  But Iqbal had courage and strength and soon ran away again, this time finding the man who had given the speech in the village square.  He brought the activist back to his master, and this man couldn’t be bought or silenced so all the children in Iqbal’s factory were freed.  Iqbal joined the Bonded Labour Liberation Front and became famous because he continued his crusade, actually sneaking into other child-slave-shops, gaining the trust of the children and then triggering a raid on the outfit by the liberation group, freeing over 3,000 children in all.  Eventually, he visited other countries, including the U.S., to tell his story and advocate for justice in ending childhood slavery.  Ultimately, however, Iqbal was murdered when he returned to Pakistan to visit his family.  He was only 12 years old. Continue reading

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

“WE STRENGTH”

We StrengthI met Peggy on the grounds of The Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Also known as “The Casa,” the Center is considered by many people to be a sacred place that offers strength from the site itself as well as through its programs and retreats.

After strolling along the meditation trails and the path of the labyrinth, Peggy and I sat in the shade of a ramada. There, we got to talking about forms of strength, such as stamina, fortitude, determination, and willpower.

Then we opened up and shared stories about times we needed to call upon strength.

“This is the form of strength I most appreciate,” said Peggy. “We Strength.

We Strength…what’s that?” I asked.

“Every time I allow myself to be vulnerable and completely honest with someone I trust, I am enormously strengthened,” said Peggy. “And it seems that the other person is filled with strength also. It’s a ‘we’ kind of strength. We Strength.

Feeling empowered and expansive myself as well as connected with Peggy in shared strength, I understood Peggy’s perspective. 

We Strength. Seemingly so unlike robustness, toughness, hardiness, resoluteness, firmness, spunk, grit, persistence, endurance, force, ruggedness, and many other words that name an aspect of strength. But a form of true strength indeed.

THE STRENGTH THAT IS IN US, THE GIFT THAT IS LIFE

Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing this photo of a tree growing in the gutter.

 

Tree Growing in GutterIt is a visual touchstone for

the strength that is in us,

the strength that is life,

the beauty that is in us,

the beauty that is life,

the courage that is in us,

the courage that is life,

the hope that is in us,

the hope that is life,

the gifts that are in us,

the gift that is life.