Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Are The Chances Of You Being You?

Quote of the Month:
Have the courage to be exactly who you are without apology. Admit your mistakes without beating yourself up. Release all shame! Release all guilt! You cannot live if you are hiding behind what was. Focus on what is, right now, and that is you!
-Iyanla Vanzant

November is usually the month this blog focuses on Gratitude.  
This year, I came across another video that I love and want to share with you for this month's Thanksgiving post!

If you are unable to view the video below, you can access it on You Tube at:

Take a minute to watch the video and reflect on just how unique and special you really are!

Until next time,
Happy Thanksgiving!
And keep it Simple!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 years! 5 Lessons!

Simply Spirituality is turning 5 years old!!!!

Wow!  Can you believe it?  When I started this blog five years ago, I thought there would be 6 or 7 posts!  Here is it 60 months and about that many posts later...... hard to believe!  A special thank you to those who have both been with me on this journey and to those who have joined us along the way!  

To celebrate this birthday - I wanted to re-run a post from the 2nd birthday where I shared some of the things I have learned from writing this blog over the years.  Though each of these could be a post in themselves.... here they are briefly:

1- Release the outcome - applied to the blog - never click the "post" button until I have no attachment to how people react to the post.  This is an internal shift ..... it is NOT about not caring.... because I care deeply about this blog.  Non-attachment means more that no matter how someone reacts to what I have written, it is OK!  That is because I know I have written a post that is "true" for me and coming from the best place I can today.... then it  does not matter if someone does not like it.  It just is not true for them, today.... and that is OK too!  (But comments are still great!!)  ; )  
A simple way you can apply this in your own life - don't attach to what someone else thinks about your clothes, your house, or car.  You can take it further by not attaching to what someone else thinks about you personally.  Try it with something small..... feel the freedom in it... and then try it with something bigger.  Remember that if someone does not like your car, that is a statement about them and their preferences, not about you.

Taking this idea one step further, and possibly more challenging, it also means not attaching to it when someone DOES like what I've written.  If someone likes my shoes, again it is a statement about their particular shoe preference, not about me.  Maybe you can try not attaching to even the positive comments.   

2 - Trust - in the beginning I thought I would share a few ideas ... maybe covering 6 or 7 posts.  My intuition  has always said.... post a solid, useful, post about once a month.  I have stayed in trust about that and it has always happened as it was meant to happen!  

A simple way you can apply this in your life - trust your own internal feeling about something.  Don't look to or wait for confirmation from someone else.  The post titled Road Maps of Life touches on this a bit more.  

3 - Take ACTION!  Or MOVE when the spirit moves me! The moment I get inspiration for a post, I WRITE!  I used to think that I would be able to remember it... but not so!  At least not with the same initial intensity and energy.  If I don't have either a computer or paper, anything I can write on will do.... I've used napkins in a restaurant before and the back of a picture. 
A simple way you can apply this in your life - how many times have you had a flash of insight or some sort of inspiration only to allow your brain to discount it or talk you out of it.  Usually in a matter of 2 or 3 seconds.  At the very least, write the idea down and consider doing it over the next day.  Is there some small action you can take towards doing it?

4 - Speak and act from the truest place you can in the moment.  I only post those things I know as Truth for me.  I do not ask them to be truth for you.  If something resonates with you, great!  Try it out in your own life... if not, that is fine too.  Explore what is true for you! 
A simple way to begin applying this in your own life - check out, internally, what you are about to say.  How does it feel?  Does it feel congruent with your internal beliefs?  Also, don't say something is "ok' if it is not.  If someone asks you to do a favor, like babysit their kids, and it is not convenient..... don't say, "OK."

5 - Take time for stillness!  Stillness is like "magic" that opens up creativity.  Not just in writing or arts.... but in practical every day life.  It helps solve problems, comes up with something fun for the kids to do.....  a new method of washing the dishes.... or a new route to the store!  Here is a link to a  simple stillness exercise you can try yourself!  See if you too can be, "Constantly amazed by the blades of the fan on the ceiling..." as the Jimmy Buffet song says!  Enjoy!

Click here for the Stillness Exercise.

Until next month...
Keep it simple!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stop and Smell the Roses, Bougainvillea... and the Violins

Photo of the month
Bougainvillea, Florida, 2003
Quote of the month:

Go mindless. Breathe. Let go. 
And remind yourself 
that this very moment is 
 the only one you know you have for sure.

This is not a new story - maybe it will be for some of you - either way I came across it again recently and think it is worth revisiting!  It is a true story.  I've double checked on  The story was covered in the Washington Post.  I also love that I briefly worked in this building, though not in 2007.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, 2007, the middle of the morning rush hour.   A man emerged from the Metro at the L'Enfant Plaza station and positioned himself against a wall beside the trash can.  By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

In the next 43 minutes, a violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats.  

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?

Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.

A half-minute later, the first donation came. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.

Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that he played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look. 

A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her 3 year old son emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She's got his hand.  He keeps twisting around to look at the musician, as he is being propelled toward the door.

"There was a musician," the mother says, "and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time."  So the mother does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body between her son's and the musician's  cutting off her son's line of sight. As they exit, the young boy can still be seen craning to look. 

There is a man who lingers and then stops to listen.  He doesn't know about classical music.... but says, "Whatever it was, it made me feel at peace."  So, for the first time in his life, this man lingers to listen to a street musician. He stays three minutes as 94 more people pass briskly by. When he leaves to help plan contingency budgets for the Department of Energy, there's another first. For the first time in his life, not quite knowing what had just happened but sensing it was special, he gives a street musician money. 

What is the "punch line" in all of this....??  

No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment.  

A one time child prodigy, at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another street musician, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

As always, I am not here to tell anyone what they "should" do.  This month, I am Simply pointing out that beauty is all around us and we often rush past.  An unidentified author poses the question, "If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?" 

If you would like to read the entire story as published in the Washington Post, here is the link...

Here is a video of the experiment.
Or you can also view the video at this link....

Until next month,
Keep it Simple!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Life After Loss... Learn to Live Again

Photo of the Month:
Baby Mourning Dove, Maryland, April 2013
Photo credit:  Mary Pokluda, Bumblebee Personal Assistants

Quote(s) of the Month:
It's been written 
in the scars on our hearts
That we're not broken - just bent
And we can learn to "live" again.
- Pink and nowMy universe will never be the sameI'm glad you came.- The Wanted

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson In Memoriam:27
A mama bird built her nest in the planter right outside my office window.  She and I kept an eye on each other throughout the day.... for several weeks.  I hated to water the plant, as she flew away when I did, but always returned.  One time, I took the planter down to check.... and sure enough, there was one tiny egg in the nest.  Days went by and I started to get worried about the egg... how long did it take for an egg to hatch?  What kind of bird was it anyway?  
One day, a good friend of mine was visiting.  She went to look at the nest and told me it was a "morning" dove.  That day I went to the Internet and searched "morning" dove.  What came up instead was "mourning" dove.  Oooooh... "mourning" not "morning" because of the sound it makes.  How ironic is that?  That a mourning dove perched just outside my window 16 months after my family suffered a great loss?  More time went by.  One day my friend thought the mama bird looked like she was sitting differently in the nest.  My (tall) friend was able to get a photo of Mama and baby without disturbing the planter.  Remarkably, Mama even moved over so we could get the nice photo of her baby (above)!  
We all experience and mourn many losses over our life times.  Hopefully most are not so dramatic as the loss my family suffered in January 2012, but when we think back over the course of our lives and think about times when we felt a sense of loss, there may be more than we realize.  Dr. H. Norman Wright recommends writing a "loss history" to help identify and work through past losses. He suggests including any instances where you might have felt a sense of loss, no matter how unimportant the circumstances seem now.  
He suggests that we broaden our concept of "loss" to include any situation that created emotional turmoil over the loss.  Think of situations beyond death, such as:
  • missed promotions, 
  • friends moving away, 
  • the end of relationship and friendships, 
  • end of marriages, 
  • the death of pets, 
  • job losses, 
  • children leaving home and 
  • lost opportunities. 

You may be able to add a few more to the list.  I think we all, in the USA, suffered the loss of a sense of security on 9/11, which we were recently reminded of after the events at the Boston Marathon.  Each of these situations creates a sense of loss and each must be grieved to a certain extent and released, unless we choose to carry the pain with us forever.
Dr. Wright suggests that one come to the point at which they can say, of each loss, "Yes, that happened to me, but now I'm going on with my life," compared to "Boy, that happened to me, and I'm still stuck in the pain." 
To help express what you are feeling, it may help to share your story with others.  Dr. Wright suggests to follow these steps:
  1. Identify your loss. What did you lose?
  2. Determine your specific feelings about that loss. 
  3. Tell someone: "I'm feeling ---- because of this loss."
Dr. H. Norman Wright suggests that public affirmation and recognition of what one goes through helps legitimize the loss.  A Simple way to do this is through a support group of some type.      
Volunteering or assisting others may also help ease the pain of loss.  I recently attended a memorial service for fallen law enforcement officers.  One of the speakers talked about how she was in her mid 20's when she married and had only been married for 6 weeks when her husband was killed on the job.  Suddenly she was a widow at a time when the day before her life appeared full of opportunity.  She said that he didn't have a choice, but she did..... and "to waste her life would be a sin!"  She went on to become the president of an organization that assists families of fallen law enforcement officers.  The organization is COPS - Concerns of Police Survivors  
The day I took my friend from the baby bird experience to the airport, on the return trip, 2 different songs played 3 times on the radio on my way home.  (Different stations, but still rather ironic given it was only a 40 minute drive!)  By the 3rd time I started to pay attention to the lyrics.... they are in the quotes above.  I adapted Pink's lyrics just a bit... hopefully she won't mind too much!  : )   When we are grieving a loss, it feels like we are "broken."  Pink's reminder is that we are not broken, we are still here... we are just "bent."  Much as the woman whose husband was killed after 6 weeks of marriage... not living - or believing we are broken - would be a waste of our lives.  
My interpretation of the next song and quote is that I am incredibly grateful to have known the people that have been lost.... (I'm glad you came, I will never be the same!) and it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all according to Tennyson.  In one of the sympathy cards I received, a friend, who had been widowed wrote that "One day the pain of grief will be replaced with joy of having known the person."  Honestly, I am not there all of the time.... not every day... but I see that as a possibility one day!  If your loss is fresh, give yourself time but remember and trust the words that were written in that card.... as I do.  
Most of all.... it is also OK to learn to live again. This little baby bird didn't even know I was keeping an eye on him.... but somehow this new life inspired me to find new life and new energy in my own situation. Two days later, when I went to show someone else the bird... Mama and baby were gone.  She had taught him how to fly!  
My Simple suggestion this month is to consider the losses in your own life as Dr. Wright suggests.  See if there are any losses you might be carrying around with you.... that might be holding you back.  If so, find a good friend and talk about it, write out what you are feeling in a journal or try some of the other suggestions listed here.  Try to get the emotional piece out, so you can become "un-bent."  Appreciate the person or situation for what you gained from going through it or knowing them.  Also know that when it is time.... find new energy in your own life, learn to fly like the baby bird did and learn to live again! 
Until next month,Keep it Simple!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Be Your Own Best Friend

Photo of the month:
Friends, December 2004, Naples, FL

Quote of the month:
You would see 
the biggest gift would be from me
and the card attached would say,
"Thank you for being a friend!"

When a friend comes to you with a problem.... how do you talk to them?  Let's use the example of your friend making a mistake at work.  Nothing bad happened, but they felt stupid (their word) for having made the mistake.  

What would you say to them?  

Would you tell them, 
"Boy that was stupid!" or 
"I can't believe you did that!"  or how about, 
"We should enter than one in the L-CIA 'Lack of Central Intelligence Agency Hall of Fame!' " 

Of course NOT!  You would help them see the situation differently, minimize the "lack of intelligence" factor and help them feel better about themselves.  You would remind them that everyone else has probably already forgotten about it... and that they shouldn't continue to be hard on themselves over something rather insignificant like this.  In short, you would be kind and compassionate.  Well, most of you would be anyway!  : )  

Now, let's change the scenario just a little bit.... let's say that YOU are the one who did something "stupid" at work.  Nothing bad happened to anyone, but you just feel like everyone at the work place witnessed your brief lack of intelligence.  

What would you say to yourself?  

Let's revisit the list above.... "Boy that was stupid,"  "I can't believe I did that...."  "Let's enter that one in the hall of fame..." and then add "you are such an idiot!" 

So why would you talk to yourself so much differently than to your friend?   Why are we so hard on ourselves, when we would never speak to others that way?  Why don't we treat ourselves with the same kindness, care and concern that we would treat a friend?  Do you have an answer?

What is really going on underneath it?  Go back to the situation at work... imagine what one would feel in this situation.  Let's keep it so simple that we can't miss the point.  Let's say someone asked what is 2 + 2 and you answered 5.  When someone else says, "No, it's 4!"  The mistake is realized.   One would probably feel embarrassed... there might be some shame.  Tara Brach suggests that we investigate our inner experience with kindness and compassion.  She suggests asking questions such as:

What is it that is really wanted in this situation? 
What most wants attention?
How am I experiencing this in my body?
What am I believing? or 
What does this feeling want from me?

She suggests using these types of questions to direct yourself inward ... and towards the Truth.  In reality, it is perfectly normal to feel that way.  Anyone would feel that way and no one would like it.  Using "What am I believing?"  One can see that they are believing that they are not intelligent.  This may lead to feeling like they do not deserve the job... or any number of other things.  What this internal feeling is really looking for is understanding and warmth, not more pain.  When seen from this perspective, we can shift into a more caring position, talk to yourself the way you would a friend, acknowledge the feeling and the pain... name it and allow it to "be"... This allows us to heal and move on.  If, instead we deny it, push it down, wish it was different or are hard on ourselves, this situation creates additional feelings such as shame or guilt that also need to be dealt with in addition to the original painful feeling.   

Also, in January's post, we talked about the difference between pain and suffering.  This is  really just another form of that suffering, and as we now know, suffering is optional!  Refer to the January post if need be!  Stopping with "what is" and feeling the pain of that alone, will end the process much more quickly.  

Another reference for self-compassion is Dr. Kristin Neff.  You can see her Ted Talk self-compassion on her website at the link.  

My Simple suggestion this month is that we treat ourselves with the same kindness and compassion that we would treat our friends.  Try it!  Let me know how it feels!

Until next month....
Keep it Simple,  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pain and Suffering

Photo of the month:
Reading by flashlight during a hurricane, 2004 

Quote of the month:

Suffering happens when 
you believe thoughts that tell you 
that something should be happening 
other than what IS happening.
- Scott Kiloby

Most of us have heard the term "pain and suffering" in a legal context. It is used in a way that indicates the two go together. This won't be a legal discussion but I want to offer another way to look at "pain and suffering" and separate them into two different things. This post will suggest that while pain is inevitable. It is part of the human experience..... suffering is optional.

Pain is the "ouch" when you hit your finger.  Suffering is everything else that comes after that.... "Why was I so stupid?" "Who put the hammer there?" "Who made these cheap nails?"  "I am such a chump... it always happens to me... why me?" (victim) or maybe you are not the victim but the victimizer and yell, "!*#$ hammer!!!" As you throw it across the room.

This is the world of suffering... all of this latter part is an illusion that is created in the mind. The pain is real. The pain is what happened... it is "what is," but that is only about 5% of it. The other 95% we usually think is pain is actually suffering. It is being made up in our minds. 

Let's apply this idea to a different kind of pain. Let's use the example of someone breaking off a relationship with you. This is real. This is "what is" and is mentally or emotionally painful. No one, no matter how enlightened they may become will escape pain in life. But  what usually comes next..... "I can't believe he/she broke up with me." "Why?! Why?!! Why?!!!" "Why did I ever go out with him?" "What's wrong with me?"  "Maybe I'm not handsome enough."  "I must have been stupid to go out with him!" "Maybe it's that other girl at school. I bet she stole him away."  "Maybe I should have gone to that pottery class with her, then she would have liked me more." Do I need to go on....? Can you add a few of your own to the list?

Sometimes, there can be a bit of drama in our house when it comes to doing homework. The fact is that if one wants a good grade, the homework must be completed. When the drama starts, I Simply point out that if one wants to, they CAN have the drama, and THEN do the homework - - OR - - they can Simply do the homework. I won't say that homework is necessarily painful, but the added drama is the optional suffering.

One more example..... you got a bad grade on a test or a negative evaluation at work. That would be a painful experience. Here comes the suffering.... "I can't believe it!" "I studied hard.. I am so stupid." "That test was so unfair - way too hard." "Maybe I should have done that homework!" - - -  "My boss is such a jerk."  "He doesn't know what he's talking about." "My boss doesn't care about me." Again, imagine yourself in either of these situations and see if you can add a few more of your own.

So, what is to be done about this? My first suggestion is to accept that pain is part of life and part of being human.  Next, just try to become aware of when you may be crossing over from pain into suffering. When you realize you may be creating some suffering - do NOT create even more suffering by berating yourself. We all have done it and continue to do it.

Remind yourself of what is real and what actually "IS." What is factual... and what exists. Sitting with actual pain is generally not as bad as we think it will be. Just allowing the pain to be without the extra drama of suffering allows real pain to dissipate more quickly.

Finally, I'll close with a Simple example.  The photo above was taken during a hurricane.  The power went out, which while not painful was unpleasant.  Instead of complaining and "suffering," we got out a flashlight and made the best of it... which soon led to flashlight tag and good memories instead of a miserable time.  

It is not always easy and life can sometimes be more complicated, but I offer this as a suggestion for a starting point!

Until next month,
Keep it Simple,