December 2017
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Six Minutes

“When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?”  ~Ralph Marston

Professor Tim Bono, Washington University in St. Louis,  assigns upperclassmen a test of sitting quietly for six minutes.  No TV, no phone, no radio, just sitting quietly and focusing the mind on something pleasant.  Only 67% of the students were able to complete the assignment following both of the rules.  The biggest distraction for those unable to successfully complete the test was the phone.

It is harder and harder to set aside quiet time in our wired world.  It feels like the Universe has stepped on the accelerator and the entire world is speeding up, revving faster and faster.  Quiet time is essential to our physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.

I invite you this week amid the hustle and bustle of the season, to take the six minute test.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”  ~Anne Frank

 

Coping

Life is going to give you lemons; often gigantic, smothering, sour lemons.  Coping is a mechanism for dealing with unwanted, unexpected deluges of lemons.

Key components of successful coping strategies involve facing the challenge squarely in front of you.  Acknowledge and accept your feelings.  Don’t entertain negativity.  Get out of the re-hashing, gnashing loop.  Treat yourself with compassion.

Use inner resources of strength, positive self-esteem, confidence and faith to cope your way through difficult circumstances.  Assess solutions that are in harmony with your higher self and then put them into action.

“Problems are not the problem, coping is the problem.”  ~Virginia Satir

“Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in our lives as a direct result of facing an extreme challenge – whether it’s coping with a serious illness, daring to quit smoking, or dealing with depression.  Researchers call this ‘post-traumatic growth.'” ~ Jane McGonigal

“The cooperative, loving side of existence goes hand in hand with coping and power, but neither the one or the other can be neglected if life is to be gratifying.”  ~Rollo May

I invite you this week to reflect on the strength and power of your coping skills.

Blessings!

 

Everyday

The actions, movements, thoughts, behaviors that we do daily, routinely; what is typical in our everyday.

Humans don’t care for upsets to the day to day program, including ‘time off’.  Frustration, anger, high blood-pressure, depression, anxiety, and dogged tiredness often occur when our daily routine is upset.

However, it is a perfect time to practice spiritual discipline.  To take a deep breath (or two or three), to take action or to be still, to relax into the moment as is possible…to allow.

Stuck in traffic?  Practice patience.  Waiting in a slow line at the store?  Smile.  Impatience and a scowling demeanor will accomplish nothing, save to make misery company.

I invite you this week into the practice.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” ~Robert Frost

“Peace of mind comes when we find comfort is solitude instead of loneliness.” ~Robert Alan Silverstein

“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you will discover will be wonderful.  What you will discover is yourself.”  ~Alan Alda

Thanksgiving 2017

That very special time of year is here.  A time set aside for ‘giving thanks’ for our blessings and bounties.  Wishing you all a very special Thanksgiving Day.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”  ~William Arthur Ward

“An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving.”  ~Irv Kupcinet

“You may have heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  There’s another day you might want to know about: Giving Tuesday.  The idea is pretty straightforward.  On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving shoppers take a break from their gift-buying and donate what they can to charity.”  ~Bill Gates

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received.  Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling.  Thanksgiving is following that impulse.”  ~Henry Van Dyke

Many Blessings!!

 

Remembrance

‘…a memory or reflection; a specific recalling; a remembrance of those who have crossed over.’

As the many celebrations of Veteran’s Day happen throughout our country, we are brought into active remembering.  We frequently engage in remembering and recollecting, however, on Veteran’s Day it becomes a collective experience.

“To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.”  ~Margaret Fairless Barber

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  ~Maya Angelou

“I know not why there is such a melancholy feeling attached to the remembrance of past happiness, except that we fear that the future can have nothing so bright as the past.”  ~Julia Ward Howe

Many Blessings!

Laughter

Laughter is good medicine!  I love to laugh.  My family is full of great comedians; we laugh a lot!  In the face of tragedy or in the throes of celebration there is always a good laugh to be shared.  As a family we are unabashed in our ability to laugh at ourselves, at each other, and at the community and world at large.  I believe it helps us stay bonded and I know from experience that laughter has helped us all through very trying times.

Laughter has proven benefits.  One I like is that it burns calories (kind of funny in itself).  Laughter helps us to live longer because it eases stress, protects from heart disease, relaxes muscles, boosts immunity, decreases pain, lightens anger, and triggers release of endorphins.

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”  ~Erma Bombeck

“Laughter heals all wounds and that’s one thing that everybody shares.  No matter what you’re going through, it makes you forget about your problems.  I think the world should keep laughing.”  ~Kevin Hart

“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it just destroys any kind of system of dividing people.”  ~John Cleese

Locally, to find some good laughs, check out The Laugh Cellar, and Sonoma Laugh & Lovefest.  Both have events scheduled for the month of November.

Laughter is a powerful antidote to frustration, pain and sadness.  I invite you this week to activate your funny bone.

Survivor Guilt

I am feeling some survivor guilt and PTSD.  I know I am not alone.  Rational or irrational survivor guilt is normal.  The reaction and degree of survivor guilt varies from person to person.  Contributing factors to the intensity are: a history of trauma, existing depression, low self-esteem and lack of support.  Realize that relief and appreciation of your survival co-exists with grief.

Once singularly listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it is now listed under PTSD.  First identified in Holocaust survivors, it has come to include veterans of war, survivors of major catastrophic events (natural disasters, mass shootings/bombings etc.), and survivors of individual events (auto accidents, suicides, overdoses, etc.).

There are things that can be done to work through survivor guilt:

Accept your feelings.

Allow yourself to grieve.

Realize you are not alone.

Practice self-care: Physically move.

Good diet and rest are important.

Get involved in helping others, no gift is too small.

Talk with a good friend or Mentor about your feelings.

Seek professional help, individually or in a group.

I am not feeling like I did something wrong, or that I could have done more to prevent the disaster.  I am feeling lucky; I am feeling blessed that my family is safe and I still have a home. And, as I listen to my friends who have lost everything save their lives, I am heartened by their will to move forward and humbled by the power of their grief.

It is also true of the community at large.  The outpouring of support in every way imaginable (and some not so imaginable, like the homes moved here by Burning Man Festival Folks to help house the newly homeless) are inspiring and spiritually uplifting.

Traumatic tragedies often raise questions about life; it’s purpose and meaning, fairness and justice, it’s tenuousness and fragility.  These are questions of spirituality and faith.  The next several months and years will test our trust, our faith, our beliefs.

Sonoma Strong!

 

 

Aftermath

Fires are still burning in Northern California; thousands of people remain displaced as recovery slowly begins…these are physical realities.

Cal Fire expects full containment by Wednesday.  Expressions of gratitude for the Fire Fighting, Police/Sheriff’s Community the CHP, locally, as well as those who came from around the world, have no full depth or boundaries.  Their work and sacrifice are  treasures beyond price.

I invite you to check out www.pressdemocrat.com, sharing stories and insights into the scope of  loss, devastation, heroism, optimism and opportunity. Especially the cogent account and reflection of SSU Professor Stefan Kiesbye, in the Forum Section – Page B13 – of Sunday, October 22.

The emotional realities are front and center too; shock, numbness, disbelief, denial, grief, anger, guilt, sadness and depression.

Everyone has been impacted in some way.  People are joining together; there is a tremendous outpouring of love, strength and support.  It is now so vitally important to begin the process of emotional healing.

Allow people to help. Volunteers are prolific.  Neighbors generous; accept these gifts of love. Moving toward acceptance requires admitting, expressing and letting go of anger, grief, and guilt; allowing a full realization of the tenuous fragility of life, as well as the depths of strength, love and compassion.  Let tears flow when they come, allowing without judgment space for others to cry or not cry.

Lean into and on your faith.  You may think that you don’t have active faith, but there are spiritual roots.  Regardless of where you feel you are on the spectrum of faith and belief, take what you have and build upon it…one step at a time.  Trust the power of love!

In crisis is opportunity.  As the land heals and new growth springs forth, so too, will personal growth.  Finding strength and courage you didn’t know you had, discovering a deeper faith, appreciating a greater love…all fruits of personal and spiritual growth.

Physical recovery and personal growth are processes, not events.  Allow the process.

Blessings!

 

Firestorm

Never in California’s history has there been a firestorm of this magnitude.  It began Sunday October 8 and continues to ravage several North Bay counties.

I am one of the lucky ones…my family is safe, my home has been spared: a miracle in itself since I live within a mile or so from hard hit Larkfield, Mark West, and northern Santa Rosa.

Surreal is the word being used by many.  Indeed, it is a surreal landscape, a surreal experience.

It is the kind of tragedy that brings forth the best and the worst in people.  Our communities are strong; noble acts and deeds common.  I had no idea  when I wrote a recent blog about ‘heroism’  that I would be witness to so many acts of heroism. And knowing there are hundreds more going unseen.

Please join us as we are praying for rain, and believing it will come.  And praying for those who have lost family members as well as the thousands who have lost virtually everything but the shirts on their backs.

There is a long, immense recovery ahead.  We are ‘Sonoma Strong’, California Proud, and the job will get done.

Thank you all for your love and support.  If you wish to make donations, please choose those sites and organization that give 100% to the community.  Redwood Credit Union Community Fund is one reliable and community conscious company.   Napa County has also set up a direct fund donate account.  Check with the Napa Valley Foundation.  There are also many other places including the American Red Cross, The Sonoma County Humane Society or Napa County Humane Society, among them, where you can help with the immediate need and the long term recovery.

Bless you all, and STAY SAFE!

Heroism

Heroes come in many shapes, sizes, ages and genders.  Heroic action is spontaneous.  We honor and admire heroes and heroines in many ways; and, sadly sometimes not at all.  And there are many people who do heroic deeds and prefer to remain anonymous.

Las Vegas is a recent incident that reveals the self-sacrifice of heroism.  Increasingly, we are witness to acts of heroism throughout the world as tragic events become daily events..

“Heroism often results as a response to extreme events.”  James Geary

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.  It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”  Arthur Ashe

“Rosa Parks was the queen mother of a movement whose single act of heroism sparked the movement for freedom, justice, and equality.  Her greatest contribution is that she told us a regular person can make a difference.”  Mare Morial

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice.  It demands greater heroism than war.  It demands greater fidelity to the truth and much more perfect purity of conscience.”  Thomas Merton

I invite you this week to take a moment to give thanks for the many forms and acts of heroism.