Embracing One’s Aloneness
August 1st, 2009
Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.
(Tao Te Ching, 42nd verse)
Yes, I’m on a bit of a Tao roll, so bear with me. I carry the pocket edition of the Tao Te Ching in my purse at all times. I don’t read it every day (although I think that was the original intent when I purchased it), but I like knowing it’s there. Whether I need a quick spiritual infusion or am sitting in some waiting room with nothing to read, it’s good company. For fun, I like to just fish it out (as soon as I can locate it in that cavern I call a handbag) and randomly open it to whatever page and verse my finger lands upon.
Today I landed on the above quote and now humbly admit to you that…that…I’m ordinary. There, I admitted it. As much as I want to be extraordinary and the master of my universe, I’m mostly ordinarily human when it comes to being comfortable with my aloneness.
I’ve always thought of it as a gift that I’m a people person. Talking, sharing and being with others has always been quite easy for me and pretty joyous most of the time. The flip side of that, however, being that I’m sometimes more at ease in the company of other people than I am with my own solitude. In fact, I often feel a little sorry for myself if I have no one to spend time with or want to do an activity but can’t find a buddy to make it a twosome.
So how can we learn to embrace this aloneness, to make use of it as the Tao Te Ching suggests? A good start is by taking the time to sit quietly, meditate and feel your oneness with the universe. Sounds deep and a little airy-fairy? Well, here are some more concrete suggestions.
Rise and shine! In order to start your day in a more grounded way, get up a little extra early. Find a quiet place in your home or outside and sit and meditate for 20 minutes. You can either set an intention to meditate upon, or leave it open. Sometimes my morning meditation is as simple as me sitting in the patio, cup of hot coffee in my hands, iPod playing peaceful sounds. (I could tell you that the coffee is for the aroma therapy aspect of my meditation, but truth is I’m just a morning coffee person). Just taking that short time to center yourself in the morning will start your day off better.
Hate eating lunch alone? Don’t skip it or have a working meal (you know, inhaling food while checking your email at your desk). Try a new, cool dining experience. Make a lunch date with yourself. Sit at a table, read a good book, eat slowly and deliberately and enjoy every bite and minute with your favorite lunch companion–yourself. Contrary to your biggest fear, no one is actually looking at you and wondering why you’re eating alone.
No one to play with after work or during your free time? Take yourself on a playdate. Kindly escort yourself to the park, beach, gym, movies, wherever you enjoy spending time. See where your mind and spirit will go when you let them play and not have to keep company and make conversation at the same time.
I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t put on this earth to be ordinary or live an ordinary life. What about you? That’s what I thought. So let’s make a decision right here and right now to be extraordinary beings. Let’s each embrace that place within ourselves that we can only access and know in the solitary moments of our lives. Let’s not run away from our solitude, but rather run with it.
Life is good! Life is extraordinary! Namaste. –Lori
Doing, Not Writing
July 27th, 2009
I’ve been busy. It seems that working through my Vacation To Do List requires actual doing more than writing. But it’s good stuff. It’s good to follow through on plans (yoga, car maintenance, etc.), to be open to new unplanned activities (cleansing diet), and to sometimes not want to do anything at all (sit by pool, nap with cat).
It’s important to be okay with yourself where you’re at emotionally, physically, spiritually, and every other way. We’re sometimes harder on ourselves than we are on others, but we need to give ourselves permission to be. Period.
As Lao-tsu’s 29th verse of the Tao Te Ching expresses:
Allow your life to unfold naturally,
Know that it too is a vessel of perfection.
Just as you breathe in and breathe out,
there is a time for being ahead
and a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion
and a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous
and a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe
and a time for being in danger.
Don’t judge yourself when you’re not being or doing what you think you “ought to” be doing. Give yourself a break now and then. Just allow yourself to be natural, to be.
Life is good! Namaste. –Lori
Start With Baby Steps
July 22nd, 2009
- Photographer: Linda Nagel
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. “
Lao-tsu, Tao Te Ching
Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)
If you enjoy weaving dreams and setting goals and then find yourself not knowing where to start, join the club.
Taking the first step towards realizing your goals is not that easy. Knowing where to start can be downright paralyzing. Especially if your goals are lofty, which I highly recommend. (Afterall, what fun is there in chasing a dream that is too easily caught? Sounds like a case of setting low expectations to me.)
Starting with baby steps sounds like good advice unless you’re like me, and you’ve forgotten how to be a baby. So allow me to provide a few examples. While the sample goals below are not meant for children, the steps towards making them come true can provide for a lot of childlike amusement.
Let’s say you’ve always dreamed of getting a tattoo but are afraid of taking the leap (there are more than enough folks to talk you out of this “crazy idea”, right?), get a henna tattoo. Find a little salon that does that cool eyebrow threading thing and inquire whether they can turn you into an Indian prince or princess with henna designs that will fade in a couple of weeks. Good way to test it out. See if you even like it yourself before going for the permanent ink. Watch the tattoo reality shows. Check out tattoo designs online and research parlors with good reviews. The next time you see someone with a tattoo, ask them about it and tell them that you are going to get one soon.
Ever wanted to go to Hawaii? Start dressing in Hawaiian prints and wearing those beautiful flower leis they sell at party supply stores. Dress as if you’re already an island dweller. Keep a 12-month Hawaii calendar in your kitchen. Flip to a different island each month. Swim with the sea turtles as you pencil in your weekly appointments. Buy some Kona coffee at the supermarket. Put pineapple chunks in your salad. Start living as if you’re in Hawaii and let the universe know that you’re serious about your dream.
Harboring a secret fantasy to be able to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on a baby grand, but don’t have the piano or the musical training? Get a cheap electric keyboard or used piano at a garage sale and a piano for beginners instruction book. Schedule in your private lessons with yourself or, better yet, treat yourself to a professional lesson or two. Hang out in piano stores and sit at the baby grands, pretending your in the market to buy (which you are, though maybe not just today). Download classical music on your iPod, close your eyes and move your fingers up and down your air piano while you listen. (Air pianos are just as cool as air guitars. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.) Find a cool artsy poster of a piano player and hang it in your room. Wear some jewelry with piano keys and music notes on them.
These are just a few ideas. I’m not saying they should be your dreams or goals. I’m not saying they’re my dreams or goals. (Then again, I didn’t say they weren’t.) It doesn’t matter. You have your own dreams and deserve to have them come true. Let me say that again. No matter how big or small your dreams are, you absolutely deserve to have them come true. Start living life on the dream path. Put one foot in front of the other and take that baby step.
So what are your dreams? What baby steps can you manage to take on the road to fulfillment? I guarantee that the road definitely gets shorter once you start walking it.
Life is good! Namaste. –Lori
My Vacation To Do List
July 18th, 2009
Don’t hate me, but I’m a teacher and I’m lucky enough to be embarking on a four-week summer break. Family vacation to some touristy city where my daughter can shop and I can museum hop will only take up five days. The rest is mine, all mine!
Lest I squander my well earned, much-anticipated time off, I’ve decided to make a very personal, but public, To Do list for myself. (If you’re reading this, hubby, I didn’t say “Honey-Do” list. So if you’ve been entertaining some notion of me as the site manager to any home improvement projects, you’ll just have to release that notion. We can certainly put those ideas on the back burner, but I don’t plan to spend my time in the kitchen monitoring the stovetop.)
Back to my list. Back to me. (Oh, I feel so delightfully selfish right now.) These are my “home improvement” projects, with home defined as: a place where one feels comfortable, safe, entertained and can let it all hang out; a place where there’s no need to be anyone but who you are, and have a hell of a time exploring who that might be.
- Play a round of golf on a real golf course. Thanks to my wonderfully talented and patient husband, I have learned how to hit a golf ball fairly well. It never goes more than 110 yards at the most, but I almost always make contact with the ball and have a great time at the driving range. Nervous as I might be to debut on the greens, I’m bored with the little green carpets. Time to foray onto the course and into the grass (sand and/or water optional).
- Take a kayaking lesson. I’m so lucky to live near the ocean. It’s a real shame that I don’t do more water stuff. I’ve been yearning lately to be out on the water in a boat. The dilemma being that I don’t actually know anyone with a boat. But who are all those people paddling around in the marina between the docked boats? Kayakers. I will be one of them soon.
- Yogacize on an almost daily basis. I’m thinking that five times a week would be a great goal to put on the To Do list. My usual excuses for not getting in enough exercise have to do with having other commitments that conflict with yoga class schedules. Well, now, I think that by posting this, practicing yoga has just become one of my top commitments. Other things will have to work around the yogi’s schedule. Ja Yoga, here I come!
- Meditate in the Japanese Gardens. Yet another blessing practically in my backyard is the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. Sad to say, but I only go there when I take my students on field trips to the adjoining university. I spend the whole time taking photos of everyone, and I never get to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the gardens. A new experience of a familiar place is on the horizon. Time to gather my quarters for the koi food machine.
- Make a date with a detective on the beach. Okay, this one probably sounds either really sinister (what kind of trouble have I been getting into, right?) or maybe raises a suspicious eyebrow for anyone who knows that my husband is not in law enforcement of any kind. Relax. It’s just a date with a novel. I spend most of my time, most of my year really, reading great inspirational books. In fact, many wonderful authors (shout out to Wayne Dyer, my guru) inspired this blogging adventure. But nothing fits better in the beach bag than a good detective novel. Female private eyes are especially heroic and entertaining to me, especially ones named Stephanie Plum .
- Be more neighborly. Many people in big cities don’t even know their neighbors. I’m lucky enough that I know several of my neighbors on a first-name, small-talk basis. However, I have never made the time to socialize with any of them. I’m not sure what form this socialization will take, but I do plan to invite a neighbor or two to lunch, movies, a walk in the park or whatever the universe presents as a good opportunity to be with these kind people. Shyness, concern for proper neighborly boundaries (or whatever else was stopping me from doing this sooner) will be left behind. Howdy, neighbor!
- Personal tune up stuff. Not as boring or mechanical as it might first sound. Okay, maybe slightly mechanical. My car does need maintenance, and deserves a little tune up after all it’s done for me this year. So do my eyes, teeth and muscles (why have I waited so long to book a massage?). Oh yeah, the hair and nails must not be forgotten. I love those parts too and plan to keep them for a long time.
Okay. Now that I’ve shared my To Do list with the universe and my readers, I plan to be accountable for progress made on said list. If you’re at all interested, check back in about a month to see what I was able to check off my list, what got revised or back-burnered. I promise to give an honest report. I almost can’t wait to see the final report myself because life is always so interesting and full of twists and turns. The possibilities are exciting.
What personal To Do list can you create for yourself? What check mark on that list would put a huge smile on your face? You don’t have to share it with anyone, but I encourage you to at least make the list and let the possibilities unfold.
Life is good! Namaste. –Lori
Just Being Present
July 16th, 2009
Lately, I’ve been enjoying being inside. Inside of me, that is. Being present. Being thoughtful, without having great thoughts.
Did you ever sit down to write something — a letter, a paper for school, a birthday greeting — and find that you don’t have anything witty or especially interesting to say? Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately, and I’m thinking that it’s probably okay.
There are times when I’m just about busting out with new ideas, and everything I experience seems to be experienced in prose or poetry. Then there are times when the experiences just sit with me, marinate, ruminate, and don’t need to be expressed right away.
This is one of those times and I think I’ll just enjoy it.
Life is good! Namaste. –Lori
Put me in time-out, please
July 12th, 2009
Did you ever flow through your day and think, “This is good. Life is good. I’m good.” – only to have one little miniscule everyday life event mess it all up? (Oh please let me not be the only one.)
Yesterday was that day for me. The morning (my special, intention-setting, alone time) was bliss. Work was more like play. Yoga class was downright spiritual. My angelic teenager (who knew those two words could go together?) was super loving and appreciative of her dear old mom. Life was good (as I always say in my closing).
So why was it that I checked that last email late in the evening? Oh yeah. I was waiting for news and hoping it would be good. I only checked to confirm what I wanted to hear. But, alas, it was what it was. And before my conscious mind had a chance to process the news and rationally put it in it’s place, disappointment grabbed hold of me like a scared child wrapped around her mommy’s leg. Without even knowing it really, I had turned my in-love-with-my-life mood into nobody-in-my-house-can-do-anything-right within a matter of minutes.
I swear, before I even saw that black cloud cover my light, I found that my angelic daughter hadn’t done the dishes yet. My husband hadn’t dried the laundry which he washed three days prior. And the poor cat was being uncharacteristically unaffectionate (I’m thinking her animal instincts told her to stay away from the grumpy human).
Simply put, I needed a time-out. Problem was that I didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t until I had made everyone around me miserable, too, that I realized what was happening. Yes, I fell off the positively positive wagon once again, and I even took a couple of others down with me for a while.
How to recuperate after the fall? Well, I just caught myself as soon as possible. Made my apologies. Asked for forgiveness. Forgave myself. And tried to get right back up on the positivity wagon. Hopefully, next time I will catch myself just that much sooner, or at the very least, take the fall on my own and leave the innocent bystanders alone.
Today’s a new day. It’s a good day. Life is good!
I like the ducks.
July 10th, 2009
I’m truly one of the lucky ones. Yes I am. I’m a homeowner of a lovely townhouse situated in a fairly peaceful condo community. We have the usual gated parking, community pool, clubhouse, and spa. Sweet deal, don’t you think? And the landscaping is a special treat with more than our fair share of waterfalls and a stream that connects them all. That’s where the ducks come in.
Every spring, we’re graced with the temporary residency of a couple of ducks – or a duck couple, to be more accurate. Now I’m not sure if it’s the same couple that frequents our complex from year to year, or different ones, but the ducks sure find our outdoor water areas to be a place of inspiration (if you know what I mean).
Ah. But there’s a twist. I never actually see any ducklings appear. After weeks of cohabitating with the human population, guarding some secret nesting spot, occasionally taking a dip in the pool (I still can’t believe that all that chlorine doesn’t bother them), leaving little duck droppings in the patio (that’s what irks the other homeowners the most), the couple magically disappears into the night without the thrill of showing off their new family additions.
Personally, I think one of the human residents is interfering with the duck residents in a way that makes it more desirable for my quaky little friends to relocate to friendlier quarters, but that’s just a theory. Though the “problem” of the ducks is a recurrent topic in our Home Owners Association meetings, no one has admitted to any “foul” behavior. So I can’t prove a thing.
This summer, however, my favorite feathered duo has not done the usual middle-of-the-night exodus. Seems that our little condo community has been blessed with eight beautiful little ducklings. They are so cute and fuzzy and playful. Watching them just makes my heart sing.
Now, instead of sitting by the pool, engrossed in my latest good read, I sit and watch my newest neighbors learn to paddle, dunk, climb rocks, dry feathers and see who can cuddle closest to mom (what a fun little competition that is when you’re one of eight). Instead of listening to my iPod, I listen to mother duck instruct, warn and maybe even chastise the straggler who lingers too far behind the brood.
I ask you, how lucky am I? I don’t describe my neighbors as eccentric anymore. They’re downright quaky! Shhhh. Don’t tell the other home owners, but I like, like, like the ducks and I hope they stay.
Life is good! Namaste. –Lori
Farewell to Michael Jackson
July 8th, 2009
I’d like to bid farewell to Michael Jackson even though I didn’t personally know him. Like almost everyone else, however, I’ve been affected by the passing of a superstar: Michael Joseph Jackson. May he rest in peace.
Take away the unfortunate life choices, the human form that we so liked to criticize, the gossip, the speculation (yada, yada, yada – enough already), and we have the passing of another spiritual being who took the human journey and graced the planet earth with us for fifty years. Now his spirit is free to continue the journey, and it finally gets to be a private one between Michael and his source.
I’m not going to do a rundown for you here about all of Michael Jackson’s legendary musical talentand accomplishments, his superstar highlights, his personal choices. You can read other types of articles for those details if you’re so inclined. It won’t be hard to find them. Just turn on your computer, your TV or any media source.
Part of my intention in this short article is a little selfish. I’d like release an intention out into the universe to this effect: When I’ve moved on from this particular spiritual jaunt, I hope that those I’ve touched will remember my goodness and be kind enough and forgiving enough to forget the bad. Having intentioned that, it’s only fair then that I extend that same courtesy to everyone else (and everyone means everyone…no picking and choosing, right?).
So here’s my mini-tribute for what it’s worth. From one spiritual being to another, from one struggling human to another, from me to the universe, I bid Michael Joseph Jackson farewell from this journey called life. May he find peace, joy and fulfillment in the next. It was nice sharing the planet with “The Man In The Mirror” for a brief time in history.
Life is good! Namaste. –Lori
Mentoring, Motivating, Mothering….and Teaching too.
July 7th, 2009
I’m about to fess up about my true identity, so pay attention. Lest you think that I’m some big time blogger and have made it rich by just cranking out fun articles on my laptop while sitting on park benches (what a nice life that will be…someday), let me shock you with my true identity: I’m a teacher.
Yep, I’ve got a day job just like anyone else. But the really cool thing is that my day “job” doesn’t feel like a job at all. In fact, after three years at the same place, I still chuckle when I get my paycheck thinking “What a scam. I can’t believe they are paying me to do this”. (Of course, I cash the paycheck anyway…I’m not nuts, just blessed.)
I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to international college students, and it’s a fun gig. Like any college teacher, I prepare classes, give lectures and exams, try to grade fairly. But what I love most about my teaching experience is the opportunity I have to mentor, motivate and mother my students.
When my newly-arrived 18-year-old from Vietnam is missing her mom and frustrated that no one can understand her accent, I get to play “American mommy” and give her a hug. When my Muslim guy is struggling through a full day of college classes during Ramadan (a fasting month) and his classmates are all eating snacks and drinking coffee during break time, I get to show him to the unoccupied classroom where he can pray. When my too-cool-for-school Japanese dude has decided that staying up late playing video games supersedes getting up early for class, I get to remind him of his ambitious academic and life goals, and how proud his tuition-paying parents will be when he reaches those goals.
(Please don’t interpret the above examples as stereotypes of any sort. You know that we can find examples of homesick, religious or motivationally-challenged students in any country or culture. I really hardly see the cultural differences anymore. To me, they’re all just cool kids trying to learn English in a foreign country and some day get that college degree. I respect each and every one of them for the courageous souls that they are.)
Think about it, if we didn’t want the personal attention, special encouragement and occasional mommy-like lectures about getting our work in on time, we would take online courses or just do self-study. Truth is, most of us (by that I mean ME) need a good-spirited cheerleader to help us get through that book, or that course, or that semester. And if that cheerleader happens to be the teacher, too, all the better.
Do you have a story about a special teacher that touched your life, your heart, your spirit? I’d love to read it (and I promise not to correct your grammar ).
Life is good! Namaste. –Lori
Plan P: To Be Positively Positive
July 5th, 2009
Remember how your mama used to tell you, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”? Well, I’m ready to hold my tongue…literally. Yes, I just may need to grab it with my index finger and thumb and walk around like that all day long. No whispering, no mumbling, no nothing. I just need to shut up.
Since reading Edwene Gaines’ The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, I’ve been trying very hard to eliminate negative thoughts and comments from my daily conversation. Ms. Gaines challenges her followers to try a 21-day fast from gossip, criticism, judgment…even sarcasm.
While I have no doubts that cutting out negativity from my thoughts and words will free me up to be more creative and attract more positive people and situations into my life, I’m stuck on the actual follow through. Sadly so, I can barely make it through a whole day without a slip.
I’m not planning to give up, though. There’s already a much shorter turnaround time between my untamed tongue and my I-can’t-believe-I-just-said-that realization. And I do keep coming up with new strategies to try out (I might be kidding about the actual hold-the-tongue thing). But it is getting a little frustrating to not be able to make it 24 hours without a slip. How will I ever string together 21 days in a row?
That brings me to plan P: Positively Positive. Going forward, I will not use the terms Negative, Negativity Diet, Fast From Negativity, Eliminating Negativity, etc. After all, how will I ever evolve into the powerfully positive woman I desire to be while focusing on the opposite attribute? I won’t. I’ll get exactly what I’m putting out into the universe.
Starting now (listen up Universe), I am a powerfully positive woman who brings joy and peace wherever I go. That’s my mantra and I’m sticking to it. If you’re inclined to disagree or critique, remember what your mama taught you.
Life is good! Namaste. –Lori