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Archive for the ‘Finding Your Center’ Category

Fortitude

The word this week was suggested by a loyal follower of this Blog and it really resonated with me.

I don’t hear the word often and not clear about its meaning, I consulted my 1950 unabridged Webster as well as my Merriam-Webster (New Edition).  The definition of fortitude in my handy Merriam-Webster is, “strength of mind that enables one to meet danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.” A good, solid definition.

The meaning of fortitude in the unabridged Webster is very similar but expands by adding, “…to encounter danger with coolness and courage or to bear pain or adversity without murmuring or depression or despondency, patient courage”.  This further definition certainly reflects the zeitgeist of the 1950s.  And perhaps accounts for why it is not often used in contemporary vocabulary.  Has fortitude  been replaced by pharmaceuticals and therapeutic processes?  Perhaps.

The root of the word fortitude is from the Latin fortis, which means ‘strong’, ‘powerful’.  Knowing the origin of a word deepens meaning.   To be courageous in the face of adversity requires strength.  To overcome adversity is empowering.

 

 

 

Optimism

The very word triggers awareness of its opposite.  Optimism and pessimism.  Two vastly different ways of viewing the world; two vastly different ways of experiencing life.

Optimists expect the best possible outcomes, Pessimists the worst.  Both  are active voices  in our internal dialogue.  The dominant voice, the one we entertain at length, has a very powerful influence on our overall well-being.

The classic glass half full, glass half empty analogy demonstrates this well.  Glass half full is a thankfully sufficient attitude.  A glass half empty is a woefully insufficient attitude.

In The Original Angel Cards Book, Kathy Tyler & Joy Drake state that “Optimism is an expression of faith in action.”

Cultivating an attitude of optimism is striving to keep positive;  putting our focus on what we have and not on what we don’t have.

 

 

Courage

Courage is the ability to conquer fear; to confront danger, despair, pain and uncertainty.

Physical courage is required when facing the above, and, for most of us, death or the threat of death.  Moral courage is ‘acting rightly’, especially in the face of opposition, popular opinion and/or peer pressure.

Ernest Hemingway defined courage as “grace under pressure’.  Maya Angelou said, “Courage is the most important of the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.  You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man muster their courage, individually and collectively, to overcome their predicaments and follow the Yellow Brick Road.  Arriving at Oz they discover the splendid truth; that courage resides within each of them.

Daily living requires courage.  At times, just the act of getting out of bed and facing the day is valorous.  Overcoming trauma, difficult childhood, striving to become independent and authentic all demand courage.

This week I invite you to reflect on your personal courage.  Own the integrity, dignity and resilience that naturally arise from the practice of this essential virtue.

 

Fear

Fear: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by expectation or awareness of danger”  Merriam-Webster (2004).

Body sensations of fear serve to warn us away from physical danger.  So to, the emotional sensations of fear; and we often experience them simultaneously.

It is the ‘expectation’ of fear that is my focus this week.    All of us entertain the big fears: health; money; food; shelter; work; relationship and death.  We also spend valuable time and energy worrying about little fears:  how we look; being accepted; doing well at everything; saying the perfect words; and being judged.

In Smile at Fear, Chogyam Trungpa says, “Fear is nervousness; fear is anxiety; fear is a sense of inadequacy, a feeling that we may not be able to deal with the challenges of everyday life at all.”   He invites us to study our fear. Where is it coming from?  How is it manifesting?  To become fearless we must understand our fear.

Spirituality & Health/May-June 2011 published ‘Five Insights For Fearless Living’ by Jeff Golliher from his work, Moving Through Fear: Cultivating the 7 Spiritual Instincts for a Fearless Life  (March 2011).

One: Don’t empower fear;  Two:  Challenge and move through our deepest fear to find freedom;  Three:  Cultivate and strengthen our spirit;  Four: Mastering one fear will loosen the power of all the others;  Five: “Two questions – ‘How can we move through our fear?’ and ‘How can we become who we are meant to be?’ – are, for all practical purposes, one and the same.”

Fear, like other emotions, comes and goes as it pleases.  Overcoming fear is work; a process, not an event.  Becoming fearless is an exceedingly worthwhile practice.

 

Worry

We all worry.  Relationships,  money,  health,  the future, the past, all are great fodder for worry.

The minutia of daily living piles  more fodder into the trough of worry.  How we look, are we on time, did we say the right or the wrong thing?   Should, could, must, have-to, what if, maybe and fear run amok in our minds. 

Chronic worry is unhealthy.  Recent research at Purdue and Harvard Universities as well as study results published in the British Medical Journal, all point out the mild to serious effects worry has on our health.

Don’t worry, be mindful.  Stay present.  Not easily done, but well worth the effort as peace of mind and better health are tangible rewards.  Become pro-active!  Visualize a Guardian at the door of your mind marked WORRY.  The perfect Sentry, vigilant and tireless at denying worry entranceChange the ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘have to’ words into choice words–I ‘want to’,  I ‘will’, I ‘choose to’.  Choice words are empowering.

Life is full of randomness and uncertainty.  Stop worry from robbing you of enjoyment and vital energy.  Energy more profitably spent managing life’s vicissitudes.

 

 

 

 

Garden

I am a gardener.  As I mature my fancy turns from vegetables to flowers predominately.  For the past 8 years my well-shaded yard has been an intense task-master.   I am finally succeeding.

My diligent efforts to grow garden fresh tomatoes, lush strawberries and spicy jalapeno have given way to weekly trips to the local Farmer’s Market.  Too many trees make for too small yields.

Many of my favorite flowers have also been shelved in favor of low light, little or no sun varieties.   Repeatedly visiting the low light section of the Western Garden Book and re-reading relative issues of Garden Gate magazine, coupled with trial and error plantings, and I am finally having some real success.

Part of that accomplishment is acceptance.  Accepting that my beloved Geraniums blossoms but a little.  Relishing the sparse blooming Hydrangea and Roses.  Accepting the garden on its terms and not  imposing my will.

Learning to listen to the garden and work in harmony with its nature is a  very productive meditation.

Thinking

If we are what we eat, we are also what we think.    Our thoughts  shape what we believe and who we are.

The majority of our thinking is wild; untamed.  Domesticating our thinking requires diligent training, intentional focus and unrelenting practice.  Start the process by editing the can’t, should, must do, have to words from your thinking.  Replace them with choice words.  I choose, I want to…empower your thinking.  This is the hardest work you will ever do.

Put a guard at the door of your mind with strict orders to deny entry to negative thinking; to the thoughts that sabotage  hopes and dreams; the thoughts that steal peace of mind, success and contentment.  Become the Master of your thinking.

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  Albert Einstein

 

Vernal

Like the ancients before us, we rely on the Sun to mark the beginning of the seasons; Equinoxes for Spring and Fall;  Solstices for Winter and Summer.  The Vernal or Spring Equinox occurred on March 20.

Spring celebration and sacred ritual abound as  Mother Earth awakens from winter’s slumber.  In China,  New Year is the most important festival;  so, too, for Christians, Jews, Pagans and Wiccans.  Iran celebrates No Kuz or New Day, and Russia embraces ‘the return of the light’ in Maslenitsa.

I invite you to celebrate this Vernal Season by giving thanks for regeneration, the beauty of  Spring, and the renewing of hope.

“As on the plum comes

blossom after blossom, so

comes the warmth of spring.”

Ransetsu (1673-1708)

 

 

 

 

Peeps

No, not your close family and friends.  I am talking about marshmallow Peeps.

For several years now, my partner and I have engaged in Peep ritual.  I don’t know how or why it began, but every year we each buy Peeps.  There is a certain achievement status in being the first to score Peeps…and then it begins.

Peep placement and Peep integration:  Integration involves separating colored sets and re-joining them.  For example, the sill above the kitchen sink has two of each color (hot pink, bright sky blue, soft lavender and baby chick yellow) lined up smartly like the front row of a marching platoon.

Peep placement is where the fun really begins.  Acting independently over the next several days we each place our Peeps.  Some placement is standard, like the above mentioned kitchen window sill.  Other placement is furtively creative.  There are surprise Peeps,  they show up in places one least expects.   The bathroom  and bedroom are favorite haunts of the peeping Peeps.  And last, but not least, the artful, aesthetic Peep placement.

I have always felt a uniqueness around our annual  Peep ritual, and then I read  an article  in the newspaper.  I learned more than I ever needed (or wanted) to know from The Power of Peeps.  Just Born Inc. will churn out 1 billion Peeps this year.  There is Peeps pop art, Peeps topiary and Peeps diorama;  apparently no end to creative, decorative  displays inspired by Peeps. (We are definitely amateurs!).

And then, the last shock…people actually eat them!  Right out of the box, smashed, micro-waved, roasted and deep-fried, Peeps are an epicurean delight!

I never thought that my relationship with little marshmallow chicks was anything more than a simple bit of fun.  Even though it feels a bit odd to be part of a such a grand movement, I’m sure we will continue our annual amateur Peep show.

 

Time

In my part of the world this  weekend marked the ‘spring forward’  ritual of Pacific Daylight Savings Time.  I, like many others,  have mixed feelings about this time saving artifice.

I am a morning person.  I don’t like  the time shift coming at the moment when the earth begins to wake from winter’s slumber;  however, I get used to it after a couple of weeks.

Yet, I have never been able to get past the time-saving aspect.  How do we save time?  The  hours in a day do not change. 

I am reminded of demonstration promos from the late Fifties touting the timesaving properties of technology.  Modernized kitchens, heating systems, communications, farming and methods of travel promised to free us from labor intensive living.  We all would now have more time to pursue a leisurely lifestyle. How is that working out for you?

We are adaptable and resilient creatures, but just when  we are totally settled into the spring-forward rhythm,  it is time to fall-back!   And our time-saving ability disappears with a slight of hand adjustment.