Full Service

Happy gas pump via human interaction

Friday was the kind of day beckoning a toasty hat, and if you left it behind your ears would wonder why. I’ll be honest. Climate change does concern me. But seeing more green grass than snow this winter was appeasing — and particularly when approaching the age where snow is more perilous than pleasant. The dry but blustery 10 degree cold made it the kind of day I didn’t want to pump my own gas yet the car cried empty.

I’m not suggesting I’m declining or even readying retirement but I am a “boomer.” I grew up when a full service gas station meant getting windows washed — front and back, and an oil check with a tank of gas. As a bonus, they might even check and fill the tires’ air pressure. Those almost forgotten services exist only in memory and especially on a frigid day.

When I pulled up to the fuel pump at the Gas & Food Express, the young guy gingerly attended my car and the one across the island. Whether he was a Young Millennial or Gen Y, I couldn’t tell nor how he could stand the cutting cold. Hopefully that tiny booth for the cash register blasted heat. His medium-weight jacket looked anemic to me knowing I shivered walking 40 feet from home to car.

Contemplating how he felt working a shift in the below freezing temps, I wished I had a hot drink to offer. Instead, I reached into my purse and handed him a few bucks with the signed credit card receipt. “Thank you for being so pleasant on a very cold day,” I said. “Please get yourself a hot drink.”

“Well, thank you. Thank you, miss,” he responded.

Internally echoing cheerful surprise, I wondered if he knew the gift he gave an aging gal.

I find common courtesies previously taken for granted are often passé. Little in-between gestures of human significance make all the difference in a high tech world of downcast eyes and empty idioms such as “Here you go” instead of “Thank you.” It may have been a 10-second interaction but I drove away fueled with appreciation for a new kind of full service.

 

Blankets of Snow

Snow falling on trees

The snow falls

heavily all night

like a snuggly warm comforter or blankets piled high,

thickly covering trees, shrubs, bushes, and grass.

Mother Nature says, “Close your eyes. Rest your weariness. Take time to gain your strength for spring.

“Hush now. It’s time to sleep.”

No wonder snow is so quiet.

Locomotive Holidays and the Christmas Train

Santa Claus boarding a holiday decorated train

Loco Emotions

Have you noticed how emotions buildup steam around the holidays, emulating a runaway train? Far reaching stressors often halt the holiday joy ride — be it time with difficult personalities, over-spending, trying to mirror picture-perfect celebrations, too little rest, dashed hopes on a “Dear Santa List,” and of course alcohol consumption (usually in excess at this time of year). But those unscheduled stops don’t have to become your final holiday destination.  

Switching point of train tracks
Original photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Board the Observation Car

This may be a time of traditions but it can also be a time of breaking them. Are you the caboose chugging along well-worn tracks, or the engine choosing more fulfilling activities? Only you know how you feel around the family contrarian, when you over-indulge in special holiday treats, or struggle to pay bills. No matter when or how holiday difficulties appear, step back to see how to handle them differently, rather than traditionally.

 


Challenging opportunities can be unexpected sources of strength when initiating change to rise above them.


Photo by Joan You on Unsplash

Using the Communication Cord

When approaching a disquieting juncture, try the unfamiliar. Respond instead of react. Shorten the visit at difficult family get togethers. Politely walk away from an argumentative platform to an affable track. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks on the schedule, and include self-care on the timetable. Ask yourself if overloading on those tempting holiday sweets is worth risking diabetes. Good old fashioned discipline still works. Set a budget for gift giving and stick to it. Better yet, offer a gift from the heart. Most of all, be kind. To yourself and others.

love trainProven Tracks

A few sayings I find helpful, and particularly at this time of year:

  • Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
  • Nothing changes if nothing changes.
  • Let it begin with me.

May your holidays fill your heart with joy, peace and love.

Olive branch
Olive branch photo by Janine Joles on Unsplash

Xing Out Holiday eXpectations

Christmas shopping list replaces expectations with gratitude

Want to have happier holidays?

Give up eXpectations.

Cross them right off the list and out of your mind.

Tell yourself you are going to be open and grateful for whatever comes along.

Play the game of life and look for the gift. No, not the ones tied with pretty bows sitting under the tree — the ones that are wrapped in all things, pleasant and not so pleasant. The ones not so readily seen. Simply adjust your sight to see.

The best gift you can give to yourself or anyone is Xing out eXpectations.

It’s free. No racking up credit card bills or standing in return lines — for anyone.

Set the tone, the jingle, the merry, the happy in your holiday.

It’s as easy as making a choice.


Xmas…the other meaning

When seeing an X in Christmas, use it as a reminder to eliminate those self-defeating and disappointing holiday eXpectations. You may find it’s one of your happiest holidays yet.


 

Opening the Door to Transformation

Photo of long hallway with door at the end

Synchronicity delivered timely and profound guidance to me before my mother’s passing. Surprisingly, it originated from a talented Spanish guitar musician (and yoga instructor) whose concert I attended just months earlier. Johannes Linstead’s message radically shifted my thoughts about death and erased any long-held fears. Since that time, it’s become my mainstay. I’ve included his epistle in sympathy cards and received numerous responses that his message also eased their grief and sorrow. In asking this guitar guru for permission to share his words of wisdom, he kindly replied:

Thank you for reaching out. I am so touched that my writings helped you through such a difficult time. To have experienced 15 deaths in such a short time is not easy, especially losing your brother. So sorry. I would be happy for you to share my writings as hopefully it can help others. By the way, my writings are being compiled into a book which I hope to release next year.

Thanks and blessings,

Johannes

Single chair in barren room with bright lights and windows above and bright and dark entrances and exits
Original photo by Alessandra Onisor on Unsplash

May this original message from Johannes help anyone else experiencing loss and processing grief:

“The End is Transformation”

All that is here and within you is sacred. All that is here and within you is divine. The earth, the animals, the waters, the trees, the rocks, and every human share the same sacredness and divinity. Even with this inherent sacredness and divinity each will come and go in accord to its own destiny and cycle. In life and in death, there is no difference and there is no separation, only transformation.

All in the phenomenal world is birthed into creation, has its lifespan, and its death. But this death is not a real death. The word “death” evokes a feeling within the mind that denotes finality and finality causes a fear. Many people are afraid of the cessation of life, whether it be their own or the life of a loved one and this fear subtly suppresses the ability to truly live. To truly live is to be fearless, to embrace each moment with a complete joy, and to rejoice with a sense of abandon. 

The fear of change and the fear of death are two things that if one can learn to accept will make life a benediction for they are the two things in life that cannot be changed. Resistance only causes anguish. To change your relationship to these two supposed enemies requires contemplation, and contemplation requires courage. The spiritual path is a path that requires great courage, which is why some people call it the Way of the Spiritual Warrior, for it is a fight, a daily battle to not get trapped into the trenches of the mundane but instead fight with every breath of your life to reclaim your true domain – the domain of the soul where love, light, truth, and kindness prevail.

If you can reach the breakthrough point of acceptance then your life will be forever changed, joy and peace will enter your heart and fill your being. Being filled with joy and peace no room will be left for delusion, anger, hatred, jealousy or greed. As you transform, the world around you will also transform. The only death you need concern yourself with is welcoming the death of the darkness within you. 

Sat Nam,

Johannes ~ Sevaji

As you can tell, Johannes Linstead is a deeply spiritual person. He is the founder of Divine Earth (divineearth.org), a humanitarian organization promoting meditation, yoga, holistic living, and the healing power of music. Johannes says, “I use music as a way to express what words cannot say. Every note contains a part of me and all the love, joy, hope and compassion in my heart. I believe that music has the power to uplift humanity — I see it all the time at every one of my concerts. To be able to bring happiness to so many people is a true blessing.” Here’s just one of his many expressive songs:

To learn more about Johannes Linstead ~ Guitar of Fire! please visit his websitewww.johanneslinstead.com

 

Open gate to illuminated pathway
Original photo by Pixaline from Pixabay

Messages from the Brightest Stars…

Golden beams of sunshine through an autumn forest

10-30-19 026cThe garden rests under November’s grey skies and already freezing temps while I practice morning Qigong inside. Looking up, I notice this solitary tree glowing amidst bare woods. It reminds me of my brother, Robert — my last living immediate family member and only sibling, who recently passed.

Years ago, when one of my dogs tragically passed, my brother consoled me by comparing that young dog to a bright star, explaining that the brightest stars have shorter lives. A contemporary Doctor Doolittle, Robert had an extraordinary talent for connecting with animals and particularly canines. He is the one who gave Bess to me.

Bess and Robert’s bookend deaths these last four months, along with too many other friends and co-workers, feels as insurmountable as piles of autumn leaves. So thick, I can barely see clearly on this course of 15 deaths that presumably is meant for deeper understanding. Striving to find meaning in all of this, I seek out any comfort I can find. Too late, I hear Do not let anger ruin a relationship. Time is shorter than we think…forgiveness is key. 
Broken branch
Original photo by Manfred Richter on Pixabay

 

As with the duality of the Tao, my brother and I had another side to our relationship. Several years ago we mutually agreed to sever contact out of opposing values and a need for self-care. After recent minimal communication we were to meet in person but he passed before it came to fruition. It’s come to me that “The soul knows when to go,” and “Everything happens exactly as it is meant to be.” I feel grateful my brother and I requited resolution and forgiveness in the month before he departed.

A caring guy with a zany sense of humor, it’s no surprise that Robert chose to pass three days before Halloween. But, finding Reese’s peanut butter cups on top of a chest containing my own dogs cremains that morning was surprising.
Reese's peanut butter cups

Seeing this orange/black package gave me an odd sort of comfort — my diabetic brother loved this candy…and he promised to give me a sign.  Later on Halloween night, I pulled in a radio station from afar. The guest spoke about Houdini’s wife, Bess, who made a pact with her husband to give a sign from the other side. These seemingly coincidental gifts gave my heart a lift.

Understanding it’s helpful for the deceased and those surviving to express gratitude for their presence in our lives, I offer some sentiments my brother once shared with me…too bad we forgot them in these last eight years:
  • The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
  • Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of  battle.
  • Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one’s who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason.If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.If it changes your life, let it.Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
  • A sharp tongue can cut your own throat.
Golden red leaf with a heart in the middle
Photo by Rebekka D from Pixabay
  • Friends are like balloons; once you let them go, you might not get them back. Sometimes we get so busy with our own lives and problems that we may not notice that we’ve let them fly away. Sometimes we are so caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong that we forget what’s right and wrong. Sometimes we don’t realize what real friendship means until it is too late. I don’t want to let that happen so I’m gonna tie you to my heart so I never lose you.
  • The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.
  • One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.
If this post touches your heart, my brother and I encourage you to make amends with the person who broke it.

And if You Think You Still Can’t Meditate…

Cup of black coffee alongside notebook depicting hand drum, with tube of paint, a pen, some cloth, threat and needles
Young woman meditating in seated yoga lotus position
Photo by Form on Unsplash

Long ago I relinquished worrying that I “wasn’t meditating right.” A natural nonconformist, my meditation approach expanded from the traditional lotus pose (ouch) to alternatives that work for me — like fixating on the moment, hand drumming, movement meditation, even my morning Qigong practice where I more easily stay focused on the swirls of circular energy than the rhythm of my breath.

Green, red, blue, yellow paint pots with small, medium and large size artist brushes
Photo by Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

 

Recently, through another fellow blogger who shares some of the most mesmerizing photographs of color and texture, I learned of a woman who meditates (and journals) through her art. I hadn’t heard of this concept before but  proffer it as yet another avenue for reaching that quiet space within.

 

 

 

 

Feature photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Nature Teacher: Challenges

Shovel caked with clay on top of pile of stones next to work boots, work gloves and a large tree

Digging through clay caked soil to plant something somewhere in my yard I usually hear that familiar clang. It’s my shovel hitting rock. I work it loose, sometimes easily freeing it, sometimes needing other tools or adjusting my approach. Soon after I often hear another clang or scrape and then another, and usually more — depending on the size of hole needed. Some rocks are larger, some smaller, some pebble size like the tiny annoyances in a day.

I work around colossal rocks, accepting that the tree I wanted in that particular spot is not going to thrive in that particular spot. I move on. Shift my focus to another area, a solution.

Usually, about half-way through clearing rocks, I’m chuckling at Nature’s metaphor for life’s challenges.

 

 

Original feature photo by 15299 on Pixabay

It IS the little things

Living consciously — paying attention and appreciating what is around me — feels like living in sync with the Universe. More easily I see, understand, and feel grateful for what comes my way. It’s not luxurious, expensive gifts that make my heart smile, it’s the little things.

Just this week…

I looked into the veggie garden to see a colorful garden spinner turning in the wind. While it’s actually a tuxedo cat riding a bicycle with a cardinal in a flower pot, it’s black/white form and silliness reminds me of my border collie Bess and gives my heart a lift. Each time I look out the window, I smile because it feels like Bess is still there.

While digging holes to transplant mums, I discovered several dozen bulbs. I forgot about these beauties, so it was a gratifying surprise because they obviously needed dividing too. The bulbs, what sweet treasure like finding rubies in my garden.

Spring flower bulb gems

Chuckling to myself I thanked the Universe for both of these small but meaningful gifts that bring the greatest joys.

I’ve read about gratitude at various times and in various ways. It all seems true…


Gratuity for Gratitude

The more I am the grateful, the more I will have to be grateful for.
When gratitude becomes an essential foundation in our lives, miracles start to appear everywhere.” Emmanuel Dalgher
“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” Neale Donald Walsch
“Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. You open the door through gratitude.” Deepak Chopra
“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.” Alan Cohen

What are the seemingly small joys in your life?  What does gratitude mean to you?

 

Constancy is Unnatural…

Tornado touching land from storm clouds above

…and will change. At some point.

Dark skies with objects hurling in the air and a collapsing house from a cyclone
Photo by Jonny Lindner on Pixabay

This summer of exhaustive change whirled like a tornado snatching dear ones from my path. In three months I’ve experienced rapid and complete loss from news of 14 deaths — nine of them close to me. Barely catching my breath, we’ve also just lost the healing space where we’ve hand drummed for over 15 years.

I admit, change often feels like a blustery, cold wind in my life rather than a soothing, summer breeze. Raised in a dysfunctional home, I became an ACOA and HSP — frazzled by chaos and discord, and craving stability and harmony.

If I continually resist change, though, the Universe sweeps in, eliminating any more chances or choices to get on board. Suddenly, (at least it feels that way, even if I’ve dilly-dallied for ages) I’m hurled with hurricane force into new situations — whether desired or not, whether I like it or not, and whether I feel courageous or not. So, instead of latching on tightly and refusing to let go, I’m more inclined now to accept and release. Note:  it’s not always immediate and it doesn’t mean I always like it.


Change is welcomed when we are the ones initiating it.

 But, when it’s thrown upon us, our response is often quite different.


The calendar indicates when I can reasonably expect to see leaves falling, snow flying, buds blooming. Even if it isn’t exactly on schedule, I feel comfortable knowing that the next season is around the corner, hence, what to expect next. It’s the unanticipated adversity —  like tornadoes, Nor’easters (and precipitous deaths) that jolt me.

Rocks Jutting through the Water
Photo by Frank Winkler on Pixabay

Still, I’m learning like everyone else on this journey called life. My headstrong adolescence pressed through storms, and my unguided young adulthood blindly maneuvered rocky, melodramatic situations. In mid-adulthood, the fog began lifting, offering clearer, smoother sailing — but only through a widened perspective and attitude of enhanced acceptance.

My Five Stages of Acceptance

By that I mean growing out of questioning, “Why me, or us or this?” to lamenting disappointment, to bemoaning perplexity, to the sighing resignation of “It is what it is,” to realizing the changing nature of the seasons is the flow of life. Change is the perfectly natural progression. For it to be anything otherwise equals stagnation and death.


As my perspective changes, so does my life.


ishant-mishra-K8hLK2M1ZBw-unsplash
Photo by Ishant Mishra on Unsplash

So now, when immense change occurs, I endeavor to exchange fear or disappointment with faith and acceptance that everything is working out exactly as it’s meant to be. While intellectually understanding death as transformation eases the loss, it doesn’t completely erase my feelings. For other changes, I remind myself that space is being created for something better…and that the gift may not always appear how I envision it — another reason for due diligence in living consciously and welcoming doors of opportunity.


Each of us processes life and change differently, and at different times in our life.


While still feeling an emptiness from losing Bess and other friends this summer, my heart slowly mends by shifting focus from loss to fulfillment. Having more leeway to be away from home now I’ve planned two bucket list journeys for 2020 — Turks & Caicos and Cotswolds, England.

A close friend processed her loss quite differently when her dog suddenly died this summer. (He was panting at 7PM and dead by 10PM.)  Feeling so distraught, she brought home brother and sister puppies a week later. While they are adorable, she forgot how much work they are and is now so tied to home, she cannot leave even for day trips. Change comes in all sizes, just like pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters…

How do you process change? Has it been the same throughout your life, or evolved one way or the other? Do you welcome change or close your eyes and shut the door on it, only to have it forced open later?