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A REMINDER TO BE REAL

 

 

Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.”

 

– Brene Brown

It takes courage to be vulnerable. Fortunately we all have courage built in to us. Of course, we need to use wisdom along with courage regarding how much to share in a given situation. But even if what we communicate is appropriately on a surface level, we can still share it in a way that keeps us honest and authentic.

With courage, let’s remove any masks
we’re wearing and bravely show the world
the magnificent real person that we are.                    

Be you. Be real. You are beautiful.
Strong and courageous too.

Truly,
​​​​​​​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

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

 

 

 

 

LISTENING: SOMETHING WE COULD ALL DO BETTER

“You’ve got to listen to the universe, to life, to God, whatever you want to call it. Because it’s going to speak to you.” ~ Jillian Michaels

Consider the quote above and the ones below. Read each one slowly, with care. Then “listen” for some subtle, or not so subtle, guidance from the voice of wisdom within you. As the day goes on, continue to “listen.”

What you receive may be in the form of a nudge, a memory, a gut feeling, something you overhear, a message on a billboard, a song you hear…the possibilities are almost as numerous as the feathers on a seagull, on all seagulls, all birds.

What you receive may be about listening, but it’s more likely to offer direction for a deeper question you have, a choice you need to make, or a next step toward a dream. Wisdom guides us in many ways, through many forms. 

Let’s listen better to one another too!

“Wisdom will lead you through knowledge to understanding. May you hear its soft voice.” (from The Twelve Gifts of Birth)

“Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply…When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.” (Stephen Covey)

“There are seasons in life. Don’t ever let anyone try to deny you the joy of one season because they believe you should stay in another season… Listen to yourself. Trust your instincts. Keep your perspective.” (Jane Clayson)

“You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.” (George Michael)

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)

Feel free to comment, question, or share your experience with this. I’d love to hear from you! 

Listening,
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!

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