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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

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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A GRATITUDE KEY FOR OPENING JOY

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” 
                           ~ Melody Beattie
 
Gratitude is like a key. Actually, gratitude is a key.
 
While we can’t put gratitude on a key chain or hang it on a wall rack, gratitude opens joy just as our house key opens our front door.
 
Or can we? Hmm. I’m going to try this. Perhaps you will too.
 
Make a colorful, sturdy cardboard key with the word “gratitude” on it. Hang it on your key chain.
 
If you have a wall key holder in your house, make some sort of artistic key to place there. Use your imagination. Make it uniquely you. If you don’t already have a wall rack, hang your gratitude key on a attractive hook in some prominent place.
 

This could be a simple and light-hearted way to cultivate a greater gratitude practice for ourselves. It could be fun too, especially if we involve children.

Whether or not you make a physical gratitude key, create one in your mind. Carry that image with you as you go about this day.

For the joy of it,
Charlene

TIMELESS PRAYERS FOR UNITY AND PEACE

Yesterday, after attending a Memorial Day ceremony in our community, my thoughts expanded to a private commemoration in my heart. It was a reminiscing and missing of all my family members who have died.

My grandmother stood out among them.

When I saw this quote from Abraham Lincoln about his mother’s prayers, I saw a connection of three pieces.

The first piece was that a portion of Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg was cited at the service. Hearing Lincoln’s famous words lifted me to hope that our ideals of equality, freedom, and the power of We The People will not be lost and that our sense of unity will be restored.

The second piece was the prominence of my grandmother in my private remembrance.

The third piece connected the first two. When I happened upon Lincoln’s quote about his mother, I felt a kinship with him. My grandmother’s prayers affect me to this day.

When I was a young child, my Grandma Gorda told me how she prayed every day for me and for all our family here in America.

She also prayed for all our family back in the old country, which was Czechoslovakia at the time. She knew of just a few specific people there. But she also knew that families grow and that we are connected even if we are far apart, even if we don’t even meet.

She prayed for all family members here and there, all the living, all who would come into the world, and all who departed. Then she prayed for the whole world and for peace.

Without being able to describe it back then, my grandmother gave me a expanded sense of time and how we are all connected.

Not only am I affected by her because I now pray in a similar way. But I feel as if her timeless, endless prayers touch me every day. I feel as if her loving prayers reach my own grandchildren and that they will go on to reach theirs.

May loving prayers be touching all of your family too.

May we someday soon see that we are one human family, one with nature too, and live together in peace.

May we live this day as if it is so.

With love, kindness, and reverence,
Charlene

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS – YES YOU CAN!

 

 

 

“Passion is holy…If we do not give outward expression to our passions, we will experience self-immolation – the spontaneous combustion of our souls.”                              ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Our creative expression does not have to succeed in the world. It does not have to make a fortune for us. We may not even break even. What matters is that we honor our inspirations and give expression to them in some way. 
Yesterday’s quote for Today’s Touchstone was “Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”  (Maurice Setter)
There are many situations in which we may miss the joy because we did not strike gold, win the gold medal, or achieve the golden title.  

When I published The Twelve Gifts of Birth, I hoped it would at least break even. I just knew I had to bring it into the world as best I could. Reaching sweet success with it was like icing an already delicious lemon yellow cake with honeyed icing.

Some books have not done so well. For example, my children’s picture book, A Perfect Name, did not even go into a second printing. 

I have a close friend who has faithfully honored her creative passions with card-making and selling whimsical gifts for the home. You can hear the joy in her voice when she’s working with her artistic expressions. She hasn’t reached gold. Not yet, I should say. Who knows what’s ahead? 

Actually, she has achieved gold – gold for her soul. She may not yet have made a lot of money. But for sure her soul will not combust, burn a slow death, or die from neglect.

We are all talented in so many ways. Some we have not yet recognized. No matter how old or young or busy or poor we feel, whatever our present circumstances, let’s take a few deep breaths and bring freshness not only into our lungs but into our minds, hearts, and souls as well.

Be ready. Inspiration can come in any moment. Welcome it. Honor it.

Joyfully express yourself. Follow your dreams. With love and courage you can. You will!

Hope and faith too,
Charlene

PS – Another example is a tongue-in-cheek little booklet I produced titled, You’re Right. The inspiration for it came with fiery passion. I paid for a simple design, did the necessary filings, and had a couple hundred printed for family members and a few friends. I knew that product would not deliver financial rewards. But it brought joy to me and laughter to others. We all deserve to experience this kind of joy. I would love to hear your stories about this issue.

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!

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

 

ANIMAL WISDOM: LESSON FROM TURTLE

Animals are not only beholders of great beauty, but they are also beholders of ancient wisdom.” 

             ~ Molly Friedenfeld

 
 
 
 
 
 
In Native American and other indigenous cultures, there is a reverent belief that animals perceive reality in ways we don’t yet understand and with a depth of wisdom we don’t yet appreciate.
 

We hear a lot these days about the intelligence and sensitivity of dolphins, whales, elephants, and other animals.  

Perhaps you have heard about animal totems too. The idea is that when an animal shows up in a significant way, perhaps repeatedly or in an unusual setting, either in dreams or waking life, there is guiding life lesson for us from that animal.
 

In the past, I’ve had bears and dogs appear in ways that called for my attention. Oh, a snake too.

At Caneel Bay on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, (where Frank I vacationed two weeks ago) while there were many donkeys, deer, and mongoose to see each day, it was the clearly the sea turtle that carried a message for me. See if that message resonates at all for you.

 
First, about the turtle encounter…  
 
I saw several each day. Each time I did, I felt a sense of awe. But I actually cried out (without making a sound because my face was in the water) when I spotted a particular one while I snorkeled. I then hovered directly over her and watched while she nibbled on sea grasses. She seemed to be smiling. I got even nearer when she swam upward right beside me to surface for air.
 
So what might this mean?
 

In Spirit Animal, Elena Harris writes, “The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity. Slow moving on earth, yet also incredibly fast and agile in water, those who have the turtle as totem or spirit animal, may be encouraged to take a break in their busy lives and look around or within themselves for more grounded, long-lasting solutions. Traditionally, the turtle is symbolic of the way of peace, whether it’s inviting us to cultivate peace of mind or a peaceful relationship with our environment.”

All of this rings true for me. Might the last part be something we all need to heed?

With reverence,
​​​​​​​Charlene

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers. Praise and prayers for all who have birthed, raised, and guided children into and through adulthood, for all who are just beginning this vital vocation, for all in every stage of nurturing others toward vibrant living and loving.

 

 

 

“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

 

 

 

As I gratefully remember my own mother this Mother’s Day, I expand this tribute to all our mothers and on to all who “mother.”

I know some childless women, and some men too, who mentor, lead, feed, teach, train, heal, counsel…perform any and every kind of service in such a heart-centered and soulful way that it can be characterized as mothering. Most likely you do too. Mother Teresa is a paramount example.

Some may object to this far-reaching tribute, maintaining that this day is designated to honor mothers in a literal way. But I think, by expanding our recognition, we celebrate motherhood in a way that reveres mothers and elevates “mothering” itself. Imagine, if beyond both the surface and the sincerest expressions of venerating mothers, our culture encouraged girls and boys, men and women, children and adults – all of us – to respect, support, cultivate, and practice the ideals and characteristics of mothering. Imagine if we held in higher regard: unconditional love, forgiveness, listening, kindness, compassion, being of service, healing touch, tears, tenderness, and honest expressions of feelings. I think we would become more real, healthy, happy, peaceful and successful.

On this Mother’s Day, may we honor Mother Nature too and “Be kind to everything that lives,” as a matriarchal Native American proverb prescribes.

With love and reverence for all,

Charlene

(from TODAY’S TOUCHSTONE)


 

Small DeerMouse on Beach

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