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

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

 

 

THE POWER OF WONDER

“May you see the world with wonder.” 
– from The Twelve Gifts for Healing                             
                              

 

Like Charlotte Eriksson, “I want to remember to notice the wonders of each day, in each moment, no matter where I am, under any circumstance.”  And that includes the circumstances of sickness, sadness, and stress. How about you?

Did you know that wonder promotes healing?

​​​​​​​“The more I wonder, the more I love,” said Alice Walker. Love promotes healing too. As does beauty. And joy.

We were bursting with wonderment in early childhood. It wanes as we age. But we can re-invigorate our sense of wonder. Why would we?

Well, for one reason, as Einstein said, “Whoever…can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead.

 What stirred wonder in you when you were a                            child? What does now?

 Did you experience wonderment when you saw a wildflower growing through a sidewalk crack? The bare roots of a tree clinging to the side of a rocky mountain? Sun stars sparkling on water? Bright green insects? Baby ducklings? A newborn child? The Milky Way?

Do you still feel a little thrill of joyful awe
when you see “God rays” streaming from above
through a break in the clouds? For many people, that sight is a touchstone for faith and wonder.  

How about when you see a full rainbow or a double one?

Let’s intend to experience wonder somehow, somewhere today. At least once.

Along with setting the intention to experience wonder, expect to be delighted. Give thanks for the awesome beauty you trust you will see. Open your mind, your heart, and your eyes. Your ears too. Notice what happens for you.

With reverence,
Charlene

SUMMER ACTIVITIES: IS REST THE BEST?

 

 

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
                                                ~ John Lubbock


Happy first day of summer – or winter, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.

While today’s quote is set in summer, the message can apply to all seasons.

How often are you “idle” in a completely restful way in which you are actively noticing and appreciating beauty? When are you truly “at ease”?

Resting under a tree, listening to a brook babbling or ocean waves breaking, watching clouds, listening to the hum of nature – such experiences nurture our sense of wonder and gift of reverence. They foster well-being and help us heal.

Rest feeds our creativity too. If not the best summer activity, rest is certainly one of them.

For health, happiness, peace, well-being,      

creativity and more, let’s elevate our regard

for rest by experiencing it often this season.

And always,
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