“Wow, I get to wake up again? Ok. You have to make good with what you’ve got.” ~ Dave Grohl
How often do you say, WOW?
I think we all felt wowsbefore we spoke the word. It was when we were new in this world and sensed-or knew-the holiness of it all.
What stirs you to say it?
I said WOW when I saw this stunningly beautiful, sacred-looking, albino peacock and this curious, lovable crane who seems to like dancing.
Even if we don’t feel goosebumps and shivers of awe when we wake up each morning, perhaps if we said something like, “Wow, I get to wake up again? I get to experience life today? Human life? MY LIFE?” perhaps we would begin to see more beauty, experience deeper love and compassion, and feel more awe with gratitude and joy.
No matter what’s happening, as Dave Grohl says, “You have to make good with what you’ve got.”
THE NINTH GIFT IS REVERENCE. May you appreciate the wonder that you are and the miracle of all creation. – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth
“I will not play at tug o’ war. I’d rather play at hug o’ war, Where everyone hugs Instead of tugs…” ~ Shel Silverstein
Me too. I’d rather hug. How about you?
I love hugs. Real hugs. For now, I’ll settle for the gestured-from-a-distance-hugs that I exchange with my grandchildren. Actually, it’s not just settling. I welcome them because love fills the safe, social distancing gap between us.
Heart Hugs. The phrase just popped into my mind.
Heart Hugs. What might they be?
While we wait for this time to pass, this time of difficulty achieving meetings of our minds, let’s aim for meetings of our hearts. Heart Hugs.
Even if we hold very different perspectives on many issues, surely we can find places where our highest visions connect, where the same things make us laugh, and where the same pain makes us cry.
Tugs. Not of war. Tugs that thaw fears and melt hate and heal hurts and lead us to harmony and heart hugs.
Let’s play at those.
With love, Charlene
THE FOURTH GIFT IS COMPASSION. May you be gentle with yourself and others… – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth
“We have to support the beauty, the poetry, of life.” ~ Jonas Mekas
What a difference it would make if we could let nature give us daily inspiration. Surely within us there would be more peace. Among us there would be more harmony if we sauntered along sandy beaches, toured through rich gardens or hiked Red Rock trails, smelled juniper and mesquite, and admired cyan-blue sky. What If we could stroll through sunny meadows or meander through shady forests?
Instead of remaining angry, instead of feeding fear, in some way, let’s let the natural world soothe us, heal us, and guide us toward peace, harmony, and respect for all people and all creation.
We may see a lot that disturbs us, but much more love and hope and courage and compassion is happening in the world now. Let’s look for that. Let’s share news of that. Let’s be a part of that. And if we can’t be near nature in some vast form, let’s bring in a houseplant, watch birds, and smell the freshness of a lemon. Seriously, there is always a way to find a little blossom and connect to it.
We can also receive daily inspirations from quotes, reflections, and stories about nature.
My forthcoming book, The Twelve Gifts from the Garden: Life Lessons for Peace and Well-Being
If you liked Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Twelve Gifts from the Garden is very similar, with flowers and trees on Sanibel Island stirring the stories instead of shells on Florida’s sister island, Captiva. Reeve Lindbergh, daughter of Anne and Charles Lindbergh and author of Two Lives, says this about The Twelve Gifts from the Garden:
In this lovely, thoughtful series of meditations on what the author calls the “simple-yet-sacred” moments of our lives, Charlene Costanzo calls upon the beauty of the natural world outside ourselves as well as the quiet wisdom that lies within us, offering strength and healing. This book is a gift of peace and comfort for all readers.
Other advance readers agree that this book will have a prominent place among inspirational gifts and best friend gift ideas and say things like:
“There is so much to learn from nature and Charlene ties it all together beautifully .
I didn’t want the book to end and I know I will read it again and again.” – Adrienne Falzone, author, The Search for the Perfect Shell and other children’s books.
“The Twelve Gifts from the Garden is a joyful read bursting with the beauty of nature and reflections of lessons learned in life. I have been a fan of Charlene Costanzo’s daily emails and books for many years. Most mornings reading her reflections give me goosebumps because they are like having a cup of coffee with God. They are what I would imagine God would be saying to me in that moment because Charlene’s reflections were inline with what I prayed the night before. This is a wonderful book to gift yourself and others! – Gina La Benz, author of Anchor Moments: Hope, Healing, and Forgiveness
“From the very first paragraph, I felt my spirit stirred—like when you don’t know how thirsty you are until that first sip of cool water. Instantly, I was transported to an enchanted island to experience insightful gifts alongside the author. Her prose is as soothing as the scenes she describes. Charlene will renew your wonder and gratitude for our beautiful earth, and the gifts and lessons available to us all when we’re mindfully watching.” – Angela Howell, author of Finding the Gift: Daily Meditations for Mindfulness
“Just as the waves of the sea ebb and flow, so do the currents of our lives. Charlene Costanzo’s The Twelve Gifts from the Garden, with its stunning imagery and poignant recollections, reminds us to savor the pleasures and discoveries of the day, the healing power of nature, and the joy of connection — to oneself and others.” – Maryann Ridini Spencer, award-winning screenwriter and bestselling author of Lady in the Window and The Paradise Table
“Makes no difference who you are…” – Leigh Harline and Ned Washington
It’s true. It makes no difference.
“Makes no difference who you are,” goes the song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Jiminy Cricket sings it in the film, Pinocchio.
The message is meant for all of us. We all deserve to have dreams. And when they come from our hearts, they can come true.
Another true message for all of us is demonstrated by Coco, the kitten in the photo with her security blanket, “Fishie.”
Everyone needs to feel safe and secure. We all deserve to be safe and secure. We all deserve to have dreams and be free to follow them.
Let’s do all we can to assure safety and the freedom to be oneself, for ourselves and for all. This includes fostering respect and reverence within ourselves and cultivating then in our culture. How might we do this?
Here are some ways to consider:
Practice mindfulness and compassion for oneself.
Notice when thoughts about ourselves and others are harsh. Get into the habit of then pausing, taking a few slow, deep breaths, and saying something like, “I forgive myself for judging myself and others as not good enough, bad, worthless, dumb, lazy, weak, stupid, ugly, or whatever negative label we are using.”
Apply love like a healing balm for our hearts. One way to do this is by placing our hands over our hearts, close our eyes, intend to have love flow into our hearts, and stay in this position until subtle or strong warmth is felt.
Avoid all books, films, games, conversations, and situations that celebrate and encourage meanness.
Perform at least one deliberate act of kindness every day.
Another activity to try and possibly make a habit is to remember that every person we see and encounter was an innocent, trusting, playful toddler. Take this further by, as best we can, “seeing” at least one person each day as they sweet child they once were. Imagine getting in touch with the young child we were. Stir love and compassion for the children we were and the child we aim to see in others, in all.
Pray for increased love and respect flowing among us all.
Reach inside for courage and strength every time we feel reluctant, shy, afraid, not important enough, or any other limiting perspective that holds us back from doing the right thing and from following our dreams.
I wish you deep sleep and beautiful dreams, the REM kind and the make-a-difference-in-the-world kind. I wish you peace and hope too.
With love, Charlene
The eighth gift is IMAGINATION. May it nourish your visions and dreams. – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth
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.
“It’s a paradox: When we have been sick, we appreciate health; when we make up after a fight, we rediscover friendship; when we are close to death, we love life.” ~Piero Ferrucci
Consider what happens in the aftermath of tragedies. We experience increases of tenderness, kindness, hope, love, and helpfulness. There’s a greater sense of pulling together, a desire to build unity, and gratitude for the good things in life.
Why does it take a shock to call forth these resources from the depths in us? Why do they go dormant again?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I can imagine what life would be like if we practiced gratitude, kindness, and helpfulness every day.
Let’s keep it simple and simply be kind to everyone we encounter as we celebrate the good things in life and Life Itself.
“Unity is strength, division is weakness.” – Swahili Proverb
We need more light now, light to see clearly, light to lift our spirits, and light to find our way to unity.
Much in the news has been dark. The good news is that we have a great deal of light within us. We also have reverence, compassion, hope, and love. These gifts and others were factory-installed. Even if they have been covered with layers of fear, hate, and blame, these powerful qualities are a part of our essence. They can be reached. Within compassion there is the kindness we all need to be giving and receiving. Respect is a part of the gift of reverence. We know what hope is and why we need it. Love has healing power, and don’t we need healing?
Today is a great day for reaching inside and bringing respect, kindness, hope, and love into the world; using these gifts everywhere we go; and applying them generously in every way we can.
If we do this day-by-day, one-by-one we can warm the cold “fear/hate/blame” climate that has settled over our land. We can melt the hard divisiveness that has been fostered. We can restore the sense of togetherness and unity we need to be strong and free.
Yes. It will take a lot of one-by-ones. True. But it’s possible. It’s do-able. And there’s much to gain if we do, and much at stake if we don’t. For inspiration, please consider these quotes:
“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.” – Sonia Gandhi.
“No doubt, unity is something to be desired, to be striven for, but it cannot be willed by mere declarations.” – Theodore Bikel
“Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.” – Ron Hall
“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.
“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.