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The Kindness Of Strangers…

Kindness

Recently I had an opportunity to experience the kindness of strangers in an unexpected way. I was returning home to the USA and my plane experienced an electrical failure. Luckily this was discovered before we left the ground, so we deboarded the plane and proceeded to wait for further details. What happened over the next 12 hours of waiting ended up teaching me much about the love, warmth and natural goodness of humanity. As the minutes stretched into hours I began to strike up conversations with many of my fellow travelers. I have to say, I met the loveliest people during those hours. We talked about our travel plans, shared pictures of our vacations and discussed our views on an endless variety of topics. I encountered so many wonderful people that it ended up feeling like a blessing instead of an inconvenience to my travel plans.

What I realized from that experience was while I didn’t have a choice about the delay, I did have a choice about how I experienced the delay. It started me thinking about the endless opportunities we have every day to turn delays, waiting or inconvenience into a beautiful practice of accepting the present moment with joy and curiosity. Fighting with the circumstances before us only serves to make us miserable and really does nothing to change what is happening. It only assures us that we will feel angry and frustrated while experiencing the situation.

Before boarding the plane some 12 hours after our originally scheduled departure, I approached the ground agents that had been helping us for all those hours. I thanked them for their assistance and told them how much I appreciated their kindness and great attitude during the long delay. That simple act of kindness took little effort on my part, but it clearly meant a lot to these workers. Tears welled up in their eyes as they thanked me and told me that it was nice to be acknowledged in that way. In the end, I was thankful my travel plans did not go smoothly and was actually grateful for the delay. I walked away with a deeper understanding of what it means to surrender to the moment in front of me and stay present to the opportunities for love and connection that are all around us…even in the most unexpected of circumstances.

Costa Rica 2.0

Last year I traveled to Costa Rica to take part in a Horse and Soul workshop at the fabulous Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Retreat. I was blessed to be able to return again this year and work with a horse name Titan. Here is a story about some of the amazing results that can happen with these horses during a workshop.

Part of the work we did this particular day was exploring the many different roles the horses display and embody as part of the herd. Roles like nurturer/companion, sentinel, dominant and leader. The horses know just how to flow and move in and out of these roles and they were teaching us how to embody healthy balanced versions of these roles. The hardest role for me to step into was the dominant role. This is not surprising because most of us have never seen this role demonstrated in a healthy and balanced way. We are usually familiar with people that are displaying this role in an overemphasized way and actually moving into a predatory type of energy. The horses have a way of showing us what it looks like to step into this role in a way that feels good for both the giver and receiver. I got to witness one of the workshop instructors demonstrate this with my horse and I could see that both of them were having great time playing with this role. It was a beautifully presented lesson on the give and take energy that can create a bond of trust and respect when done with the right intention.

Now it was my turn to work with Titan and explore taking on the role of dominant energy. At first it was not going well, he was calling the shots and I was letting him. I realized I was much more comfortable with nurturer/companion role and it was my safety zone of operations. If I couldn’t get what I wanted through that role I would often give up and give in, versus moving into any other role. But Titan was having none of that – he made it clear he trusted me and that I should trust myself. I started to see that not only was he supporting me through exploring this energy, he was enjoying it and wanted me to play with him. It was an epiphany when our instructor explained to me that a display of dominance is part of how horses play with each other and practice this role for when they need to utilize it. After I made the mental switch to realizing that I wasn’t hurting him or being unkind to him, I finally was able to allow myself to fully step into this energy. Titan responded with the behavior and energy of enthusiasm and most importantly I felt like we were connected and in sync in a way that I previously had not felt. It was truly amazing to feel the embodiment of that energy.

My takeaway from this encounter is that there is value, depth and richness in being able to move in and out of these different roles as needed. When we get stuck operating out of only one of these roles our lives feel unbalanced – and often our relationships and sense of satisfaction with our life will reflect this imbalance. The horses were demonstrating for all of us that there is a time and a place for stepping into each of these roles. Behind the willingness to explore these energies we will find more balance, empowerment and most of all more joy. This was only day two of our 8 day workshop, so stay tuned for more illuminating lessons from the horses!

Cruz-ing through life…lessons from a sea lion

I had the honor of meeting Cruz the sea lion at my recent visit to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Cruz is no ordinary sea lion and he has quite a compelling backstory to go along with his outgoing and friendly personality. Cruz was rescued in 2013 as a pup along a beach in Santa Cruz, California. After examination it was found that Cruz was blinded due to bullet fragments that destroyed his right eye and blinded his left. He could not survive in the wild and was taken to a recovery center where he was nursed back to health. They knew that Cruz would need special lifelong care and so he was placed at Shedd Aquarium. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship and Cruz proved himself to be a fast learner and continued to thrive in his new environment.

By observing Cruz maneuver you would never know that he was blind. He relies on verbal and auditory cues to swiftly and easily navigate around his environment. It was clear to me from watching Cruz interact with the trainer and the people visiting Shedd that he is a true ambassador for faith, hope and perseverance. He teaches everyone he meets about the power of believing in yourself and never giving up. In fact, he displays in great grandeur the truth that disabilities do not diminish us but in fact can be the driving force that unearths the greatness we are meant to share, teach and instill in others.

It was truly heartwarming to see all of the children listening to Cruz’s story and witness him display his wholeness for all to see. I was so moved by the idea of what he would inspire in these young people…more compassion for animals, belief in a no limits life, a commitment to help stop animal abuse, the courage to thrive under adversity, and any number of other wonderful outcomes as numerous and unique as each person there witnessing Cruz’s offering. I must admit that it brought tears to my eyes.

Cruz not only reminds us all that animals are precious valuable additions to our world, but that they can be our greatest teachers if we take the time to see, hear and experience the lessons they are offering. I know that I walked away inspired by my encounter with Cruz and could feel with deep resonance that he is joyfully fulfilling his mission to open hearts and minds one person at a time.

Is my personal happiness really the goal of life?

Key to Happiness

When we think that the purpose of the world is to make us happy or that the goal of this human life is to achieve personal happiness – we are setting ourselves up for the opposite experience. That might sound off putting or even controversial, but stay with me on this one. How many times in life have we thought our happiness and fulfillment meant getting the certain job, relationship, house, acknowledgment…this list could go on and on. A few months or years later we look back and realize NOT getting those things that seemed to mean so much to us at the time ended up being the greatest gift. Sometimes a different opportunity came along that was a much better fit or the relationship breakup that was so devastating at the time led to us meeting the person of our dreams! When our happiness is dependent on some event or circumstance outside of ourselves then the target is always moving, always changing and always just outside our grasp. Even when we get what we want it seldom satisfies us for long until we are right back on the same wheel of suffering….waiting for circumstances or conditions to change so that we can grasp the elusive happiness that we are continually seeking.

The point I am making here is that sometimes we don’t know what is best for us because we are approaching life from the wrong perspective. As I started out saying, the purpose of the world is not to make us happy. I feel that all great spiritual paths and religions at their core have provided us with the true purpose of the world if we really take the time to step back and look at the commonalities between them all. The fundamental message being shared is that the purpose of the world is to evolve our level of consciousness. This means there is a goal beyond our present moment happiness within any given situation. The truth is that happiness is an inside job. You radiate it from the inside out, it is not dependent on circumstances but is a way of living that acknowledges our life has a bigger, greater purpose than us feeling comfortable and satisfied at every moment. When we live with this awareness then we begin to look at any given situation that we would have previously identify as a problem to be solved, eliminated or fixed – as a challenge for us to rise to.

The point I am driving towards is that ironically our happiness or satisfaction with the life in front of us is tied to our ability to see that life will always be pushing us and asking more of us than we might feel comfortable with at any given moment….that is the whole reason we are here. It doesn’t mean that we should pretend to not be discouraged when life seems to be throwing us a curve ball. It means that we develop the context to view these circumstances from a whole new light. In doing this, we allow our discouragement to be transformed and transcended into something greater. Paradoxically this is what creates in us a sense of satisfaction, freedom, peace and drum roll please…happiness. There are some questions we can reflect on that help us align with this deeper perspective. Where am I obsessed with the past or grasping towards the future? Where am I not being kind, compassionate or giving of myself fully? Am I willing to release the attachment to things happening my way and trust that there might be an even better solution or opportunity seeking to present itself in this seeming setback. When your mind is in right alignment with this way of thinking you don’t have to go out and get anything – everything fantastic will fall at your feet.

Walk Like An Egyptian

SphinxI had the privilege of spending two weeks on a pilgrimage to Egypt this past February. I was part of a group tour led by an amazing spiritual teacher. Of course we saw all of the wonderful sights, temples and historical artifacts that come to mind when one thinks of Egypt. However, the really big impact came from the way in which we visited these sacred spaces and the intention of the group I was traveling with. It made me realize how important and instrumental it is to live from a place of intention. We encountered many other people visiting the same sights and temples, yet it was clear that our experience was quite different. What occurred to me is the level of consciousness we bring to any situation is really what determines the outcome of our experience rather than the situation itself. We can often become deluded by the so called common sense thinking of the world that trains us to believe the level or depth of our experience is based on something outside ourselves. How cool or awesome an event or place is has everything to do with our thinking and not as much to do with the thing itself. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi…the end is inherent in the means. Everything we do is infused with the consciousness with which we do it. The outcome is inexplicably tied to the intention behind its beginning.

What really shifted in me while experiencing all of this in Egypt was the realization that thousands of years ago the Egyptian people knew this and had a grasp on what our lives are really about. It made me wonder how humans got off track when the Egyptians figured these things out so very long ago? It seems like we are finally in the midst of a huge awakening and remembering of the sacredness of who we are. Slowly the world is realizing that what I do to you I really do to myself. That animals and nature are gifts to be treasured and revered for what we can learn from them versus how we can dominate, plunder and use them for our purposes. I am still processing everything I experienced in Egypt and I look forward to sharing the many great offerings these ancient people had to convey. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Our animals’ perspective on death and dying

I feel moved this month to talk about the way our animals view their passing and the way this often differs from how we as their humans feel about it. Lately, this has come up in several readings and I was recently discussing the topic with a family member that is dealing with this circumstance. The concern that is often being expressed is a worry the animal is suffering or a fear the person will miss the cues and clues of when it is “time” to intervene and help the animal transition. When I was discussing this with my family member, she shared that she was trying to “fix” the problems her dog was having, however, there just kept being more issues to fix.

I suggested that she change her thinking about the situation. In this particular case, I compared it to offering palliative or hospice care. The goal being to make the animal comfortable and help them enjoy the time they have left in this body…not to fix them. The difference with people versus animals is that as humans we have a tendency to “suffer” more with illness and decline because we attach a lot of mental energy and thought patterns to the illness, pain, decline, death, etc.

In turn, we project that on our animals when they have an illness or are declining. However, they don’t view themselves or their situation in that way. They might have physical discomfort, but they don’t have a story about it or an attitude of “oh no…I must be dying…this is going to be terrible or really painful”. That is only a human thing.

Animals live in the moment and they are not at all afraid of transitioning back to spirit. They choose the time and the circumstances of their passing. I know this may seem hard to believe, but it is really what is happening. Everything they do and choose is in some way tied to the best way they can help their humans learn the lessons they have been teaching them.

The Hero’s Journey

Niagara Falls

The Winter Olympics start in a few days and I was contemplating the various paths and inspiring journeys these athletes traverse in order to make it to a competition of this caliber. Of course we have all watched the stories spotlighting a person’s journey to the pinnacle of their sport. I was reflecting on why we are all so moved by these stories. I think it is partly because deep inside of us we recognize it as the journey we are all on in one way or another. Our journey may not make front page news, or be a gold medal winning endeavor, but we are all on our own Hero’s Journey, to use the phrase popularized by Joseph Campbell.

We sometimes get lost along the way by thinking if our journey or purpose does not produce something big and impactful to the masses or get noticed on a large scale by the world then it is less important. That is where we start to get off track and can look at other peoples’ lives with envy. We may even get depressed with the thought that our life hasn’t really worked out and it’s too late to do anything about it. The problem is that we discount the reality that we are leaving a footprint and making an impact in every encounter and with every decision we make…no matter how big or small it might seem. We discount the truth that serving one person from a place of love is no less important than work or achievements on a global scale. The reason is because it all starts with one. One thought that is acted upon, one idea that grows over time, one singular inner knowing your life is about something more than accumulating stuff and worrying about yourself. The fact of the matter is the first and only place we can make an impact is in the life and circumstances we are dealing with every day.

We all have the chance and opportunity in each moment that passes in front of us to raise it by our presence. What does that mean? It means living from a place where we start to view every moment as an opportunity to bring our best and highest selves. When we start to live this way we begin to see that every experience is giving us a chance to serve the moment in front of us versus wondering what is in it for us. Just that shift alone will change your life and the life of everyone you encounter. Could you imagine what the world would look like if everyone was approaching each moment with the intention of “how can I serve and uplift this moment by my presence”? By approaching life this way our journey and purpose is laid out in front of us moment by moment. Every circumstance and encounter needs a hero. Luckily there is one available…it is you.

New Year Visioning

Happy New YearThis time of year everyone is usually setting New Year’s resolutions. The hope is the new year will be different and we will finally see our desired results. I have personally found that making resolutions doesn’t seem to work. What has worked the best in my life, is using a visioning process that really moves the energy and changes the frequency/vibration of what I am attracting. I recently held a webinar on this visioning process for Danielle MacKinnon’s Be Open community and thought that I would share with you a brief introduction to this process. By the way, if you haven’t checked out what the Be Open community offers, here is a link…it is really awesome!

I started using this process about three years ago and it has made a big difference in my life. At the time, I had been suffering from chronic neck and back pain for over 10 years. Having tried countless traditional and non-traditional approaches, I decided to give this visioning process a try. My approach to the process was really a distillation of books, lectures and other information that I was coming across on universal laws, quantum physics and changing the frequency/vibration of what we are attracting. It seemed everywhere I looked I was being bombarded with this type of information, so I took the hint from the universe and started to write a vision of what I wanted my life to look like.

Everything I was reading was telling me to mentally rehearse the results I wanted and to behave as if those results were already here. So, I started to spend time everyday imagining that I had full mobility, flexibility and was free from pain. I imagined that I could do any activity I wanted and I had a body that worked for me versus a body dictating my limitations. The more I took my focus off of what wasn’t working and put my attention on the results I wanted, the more things started to shift. I began to see opportunities I didn’t see before and I felt encouraged by the little signs and BIG signs the universe was giving me that I was on the right track. Things didn’t change overnight, but three years later, I am living the life I had visioned…freedom in body, mind and spirit. The pain and restriction are a thing of the past. I am grateful I decided to take my life back and consider the idea that I had the power to do something to change my situation. What I know for sure is our thoughts have power beyond what we realize. I can see clearly now the life we want is always trying to make its way to us…it is our beliefs, thoughts and actions that get in the way. I hope 2018 will be a year in which all of your dreams, visions and aspirations become a reality.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

There is something magical about the first big snow storm of the season. I don’t know if it is the fact that it has been 8 months since seeing everything blanketed in fresh white fluffy powder or the fact that it came the week before Christmas. Whatever the reason, for me it takes me back to being a kid and getting so excited every time it snowed. At the first sign of falling flakes, I loved to go out and play in the snow, go sledding, ice skating and of course pray for snow days off of school! As we become adults, sometimes we lose the magic and joy we once had as kids….about so many different things. So with that in mind, I decided that I was going to go out and build a snowman. My husband thought I was nuts! He said, “What are you doing, it is freezing out there.” But I didn’t listen to him. I went out anyway, and guess what…I had so much fun! I had forgot how much fun winter could be. I could see that for years I had been missing the fun of winter because I was caught up in the adult responsibilities of what too much snow usually means – and none of those thoughts filled me with joy. When I let myself really SEE what was right in front of me, my whole viewpoint changed. So, if you are lucky enough to live somewhere that gives you a front row seat to Mother Nature’s amazing winter carnival of fun – go out and enjoy it. Recapture the joy and delight of your childhood, after all, winter fun isn’t just for kids!

When not helping is the best approach…

I just got back from spending a week working as a teaching assistant for Danielle MacKinnon’s Soul Level Animal Communication Level 1 class. I expected to be there to assist the students in their process of learning and exploring the area of animal communication. While I certainly did witness some amazing transformations and growth, I was not necessarily prepared for my own “stuff” coming up in the process. You see, I was really excited to help and to me that meant jumping in whenever I saw a student struggling with the reading or looking uncomfortable. I would notice this and move into “fix-it” mode – which meant intuitively getting into the reading and helping them parse out the intuitive information they were seeing, hearing, feeling. Sounds helpful, right? Well, as it turns out, there was a better approach for helping the students and myself.

About mid-week, Danielle and I had a discussion about my desire to go into “fix-it” mode. Through listening to her insight and my reflection on her comments, it became clear that this was a pattern for me. It became clear that sometimes my motivation to help others was based on the desire to make sure they didn’t feel any pain or discomfort. My own familiarity with experiencing deep pain and struggle was causing me to swoop in and rescue them from experiencing these feelings. What Danielle helped me to see was that part of the student’s process was sitting in those uncomfortable feelings and figuring it out on their own. This was a huge aha moment for me! I started to see that I went into “fix-it” mode every time I encountered another person in pain or hurt.

The real learning and take away was that by recognizing this belief and pattern I was able to create some space between it automatically driving my behavior. By the end of the week, I was able to step back and notice the urge to “fix-it” and then make a decision to choose a different approach. That is really the whole beauty of awareness. You don’t have to force yourself to be different or work hard at making changes. Just by observing and having the awareness of the belief driving the behavior, everything starts to shift. I was still supporting the students, but not by rescuing them from the situation. I allowed them to work through the uncomfortable situation in their own time by following their own process. In a roundabout way, I ended up learning that sometimes the best way to help is to step back and let the process unfold. And in my case, to notice what belief is behind the driving need to be so darn helpful.