God DNA

I woke up at 3 am this morning because my new little kitties willed it to be so.

I walked through the darkness and made my way downstairs as they followed. I was on automatic again, doing my routine stuff when I opened the bathroom door and there they sat waiting for me. They looked up at me with big green eyes and I stopped and looked back at them. We made our way to my overstuffed chair in the living room and got comfortable – Onyx at my neck, Noir curled up at my feet. I listened as the slow purring started and immediately melted into the day. What a gift they have become. A gift of awakening in many ways. Their presence opened up my heart and gave me a few thoughts to share with you:

What if today you knew who you really were, where you came from, and what would make you feel connected and alive?

What if everything inside you shifted and your eyes were opened to see things as they really are…who YOU are?

What if you found a way to never be shaken from your center again – to feel so secure in the world that no matter the strength of the whirlwind circling you, you felt steadfast and immoveable even if you had to sit still with arms wrapped tightly around bruised knees, sitting on cold ground every once in a while?

I feel that way all the time.

I have a knowing inside that tells me I have “God DNA” and so do you. I’m made of the same stuff and come from the same place as joy and light and love. I am connected to all things and everyone as you are, too.

My gift is that I know it.

The ocean, the trees, the wind – they all know me, I think better than I know myself. I can feel it. On my walks or swims or even driving, when I open my spiritual eyes – the ones that have a veil over them that I have to consciously part – the world becomes a different and more real place. Everything in it is a teacher, a friend, a gift that reminds me of who I really am and why I’m here. I remember how precious and perfect each moment is, how incredible and unique every soul I meet or pass by is, and that I can deepen my joy as I choose to experience all of it as the spirit whispers how.

My challenge is that I forget that sometimes and I’m not sure how that happens. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way so that I’ll treasure remembering?

But when I remember, I feel it again. I feel the life in life. I see the beauty in the simple things. I once again know who I am.

And heaven smiles.

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What If Today…You Were Addicted?

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Photo by juliedemellophotography.com  Julie is a new friend I made at the beach yesterday who just happened to be there doing what she does best – photographing nature!

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”  Buddha

I knew the feeling. My heart had started racing as soon as I woke up yesterday morning and remembered that it was Saturday,  a polar plunge day. I sat at my desk for hours, drawing and thinking. I wasn’t scared, just anxious. But I had expected to feel that way. I had always experienced a nervous rush of emotion before I went onstage when I was a dancer, and nothing I did back then had helped alleviate those feelings that were connected to thoughts of failure – what if I trip? forget the steps? fall off the stage?. New thoughts taunted me: What if it’s too cold? <actually that was the only one I had! Looking at my phone at 4 am. and seeing that it was -4* (it eventually reached the 20’s) wasn’t helping!

When I finally got in the car at 9:30 I was on automatic. All I had to do was drive there, get in, get out and warm up. But half way to the beach a new thought came to me, “If you never got to the beach (flat tire, etc.), what would you have remembered of your morning? What’s more important, the event or the living that leads up to it? Will you always need a polar plunge?”

Hmm, I asked myself. Could it be that I could move to the next level with this experience?

So, for the rest of the drive I studied shadows and snow on trees alongside the road. I’m an artist-in-progress so I’m always trying to see things that I think I understand in a new way. Light and the way it falls on things is fascinating. So, I absorbed and learned about light…and noticed how calm I felt! And I loved it!

That’s when I KNEW… I’m not addicted to adrenaline. I’m addicted to joy and living deeply in the moment. I love getting to the place inside of me that’s calm,and full of love and awareness of what’s going on. I realized that for years, when I was going to do something stressful, I’d project myself into the future as if I was already doing that thing, and as if I’d feel all the feelings I thought I would feel doing it (we do that when we are asked to speak in public, perform, publish a blog post, show someone something we’ve created, say ‘I love you’, etc). But the truth, I found out, was that I could manage my emotions and thoughts and never go to the future again. I could stay in the moment, calm my heart down, and live with the truth of what was going on. Does that make sense?

I haven’t mastered it yet. It was a new one to me yesterday – one I had right before reaching the ocean for another cold dip. But I watched the video and saw a new me in it – a slightly less nervous version of me. I was calmer than I had been ever before.

I never know what I’ll learn from these plunges. But this lesson was powerful for me. I’d lived my life believing that I’d HAVE to take the adrenalin rush WITH some chosen experiences. CHOSEN is the key word. But that’s not true! When you choose the experience you have the power to choose your experience of it. That’s not the case when there’s an emergency OR when you aren’t aware of or care about why you’re doing things like bungee-jumping, or even polar plunges. It’s easy to become addicted to an adrelalin rush. But I, my friends, am on a path to uncover, loosen, and get rid of things that are negative and block joy. These plunges area a tool to do just that: to look closely at my thoughts and feelings while following through with a commitment to do something difficult, and to learn about how I’ve let those thoughts and feelings run my life instead of the other way around.

To wrap this up, like a body fresh from a frigid ocean, I’ve learned that adrenalin has it’s place, but in order to feel deep joy one has to find the calm and look for beauty in life to truly experience it. Adrenalin is a powerful “drug” and can actually slow down one’s journey to joy if you can’t learn to master it.

That said, the PLUNGES ARE AWESOME.

(link to the video: Jan.4, 2014 Polar Plunge  )

What If Today…Our Life Was Lived as an Occasion?

“There are a million things one might do with a block of wood.

But what do you think might happen if someone, just once, believed in it?”

It didn’t matter what was on tv at the moment. All I really wanted was something to entertain me while I sanded my feet  – a semi-regular task for flip flop wearers around the world. I was a bit miffed that what was on was Mr. Margorium’s Wonder Emporium – a movie I’d watched a million times with my children. I almost changed the channel , but that little voice that knows better  whispered, “There’s a reason. Watch it.” It was half an hour ’til it ended. so I watched. Here’s a trailer:

I studied Mahoney – her depressed mood after Mr. Margorium died, and how the toy store he’d bequeathed to her mirrored her darkness. All the magic had gone out of it. Everything was black getting blacker. She’d given up because she didn’t believe that anything would be the same without him.  All of the magic was on the outside of her. She didn’t know how to access her own magic.

Then, near the end, the store’s accountant witnessed the power of her passion triggered in her defense of what appeared to him to be an ordinary block of wood. She insisted that it wasn’t ordinary, and he insisted that it was. The block of wood responded to her belief in it by coming to life, and, here’s the fun part,  the awareness of who she is in her world started to grow. Her friend the accountant saw the “sparkle” in her eyes – the one that had been missing for so long. He is mesmerized by the “magic” that she allows to flow out of her and into the lifeless store, breathing life into all of the toys.

The transformation was remarkable.

**********

I told you about “being an artist” in one of my previous posts. Once I’d said it to my boss it was as if I’d opened a door to a new path for both of us. Her excitement was unleashed and there was no reigning it in. In the short time since that announcement she has had a dumpster delivered to empty out a basement to make room for a studio, and not 24 hours after its delivery, found “us” a studio to work in. She texted me to be at the studio at 10:45 yesterday morning, saying she would be late and I needed to bring my artwork to show the owner. I put my shoes on and gathered my stuff and raced off in my little yellow Beetle wondering what she was getting me into….

“Our” studio? When had that happened? What did it mean? Those thoughts were quickly dismissed because there was no life in them. I found the place easily and climbed the stairs to the most beautiful studio apartment that matched every one of the daydreams I didn’t realize I’d been having until I saw them in real life, all rolled out in front of me.

It sits on a pond and is seconds from the beach that you can see beyond the pond from the deck. And all I can think is….swimming!

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What does any of this mean? For you? For me?

Right before Mr. Margorium dies he says to Mahoney,

“Your life is an occasion…….rise to it.”

I sat still at the end of the movie and tried to connect the dots from “I’m an artist” to yesterday’s acquisition of a beautiful space to continue doing what I’d started doing seriously once I’d said it – drawing. What had happened? All I can relate is that there was a shift in perception of who I am and how I spend each day. I’m doing what comes to mind. I accept with gratitude the time I’ve been given. And I’m becoming masterful at not caring what people think about me….’cause I like who I am….

I swim in the cold because…

I draw because…

I smile because…

…because it’s all so wonderful.

I truly live a magical life.

One of the things I noticed as I sat and pondered the lessons from the movie was the connection I have to some beautiful people and their joy and generosity to be a part of the unfolding of my life, however unaware of it that they are. We are more connected than we think. When we live our lives joyfully (and that will mean different things for each of us) something magical happens. What we radiate sparks a flame in another and the whole world is eventually brighter.

This is a glimpse into my world as an example:

My son sparked an interest in doing Polar Plunges and I did my 1st one on New Years’ Day this year, 2013… and I remember that I can do the impossible and scary….

I’m asked to paint portraits on potatoes by a friend who’s passionate about online gaming…and I start to remember that being challenged and supported for what and who I really am is important in relationships for me….

An old friend invites me to Rose Island Lighthouse for an overnight… and I remember what real joy feels like. I start noticing the joy in people because of that one night and my life feels fuller, richer, happier. I feel more alive…

A new friend follows a desire to work in Alaska and comes home with some amazing photographs…. and I remember what it feels like to be inspired. I ask permission to draw them and show them to my boss when I finish them… and she remembers who she is….

I ask the local art supply shop for a reference to a printer. I meet another new friend (the printer) with whom I can talk passionately about light and art things and he gets it and spends time teaching me all about his passion for digitally enhanced artwork for which he is world-renowned. He waives some fees for me because he wants me to succeed…. and I remember that miracles do happen in the form of kindness and support and shared vision…

My boss hears and feels my love of life in the Polar Plunges and the creation of my artwork and rents a studio for us yesterday to keep the dream alive…. and I remember that like attracts like.

Who knows what today will bring. One thing I know is that it’ll be magical because we’re in it together. Sparks need something nearby to spread their energy…

I’ll end with a snippet of a conversation from the movie. You do with it what you will. To me it means throw your own life party and be the first one to show up. Design it from your heart and live it with eyes open and grateful for those who are placed in your path as gifts.

(I missed this part of the movie. It had something to do with clocks and maybe coordinating them to chime as one?)

Mr. Edward Magorium: 37 seconds.

Molly Mahoney: Great. Well done. Now we wait.

Mr. Edward Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.

Have an extraordinary day, whatever you choose to do. I’m going to clean my new art studio… 🙂

What If Today…You Were an Artist?

“The act of painting is about one heart telling another heart where he found salvation.” Francisco Goya

“So, I’ve decided I’m going to be an artist,” I said to my boss as we both jumped out of our cars in the parking lot. I’d come to that conclusion in the wee hours of the morning yesterday as I contemplated how to make money while staying at home – something that has suddenly become a real probability. I’ve never tried to sell my artwork and in order for me to make the transition I needed to “become” an artist. Do you know what I mean? It just means spending the time that I’m not working outside the home, focused on what I do best – drawing.

Those thoughts and intentions brought me to a very happy place. I’m an artist at heart. I think it’s just my perspective on life and how I show up.

“Yes!” she almost yelled. “And we’ll use my basement. We’ll transform it into a studio.” I couldn’t stop her. I just smiled. “Do you know that’s all I want to do with my life, but I work to make everyone else’s life go smoothly? Do you know how many art projects I have going on in my basement?” she asked as if I should know while passing me two small bags of next organic chocolate covered cashews and apricots.

“Is this breakfast?” I asked laughing.

“Yes. Eat them. I’ve eaten half of them. You have to eat the rest. They’re yours.” Then she passed me a bottle of water. “Drink it. You have to stay hydrated or you’ll faint.”

She went on and on and on (I think it was the chocolate) about her connections in New York and how we could make things here and send them there and make oodles of money. Honestly, I think we’d just have fun in her basement laughing, dreaming, creating and eating organic food!

My boss is a problem solver. She can listen to a rant, find where she agrees , and propose a solution very quickly, stopping anyone dead in their tracks as they try to pull her down a road of doom and gloom. She leaves people with mud in their hands, encouraging them to make something beautiful with it.

I like people like that. They are artists.

They see the truth about where things are at in the world and choose to create new spaces out of what others see as hopeless.

Are you like that?

Do you find the joy, beauty and possibility in rainy, overcast days, chronic illness, overwhelming financial loss, and unexpected turns in your life? It takes me a while, but that’s where my heart always leads me.

I’ll never forget my 3rd daughter’s first birthday. It had been a long winter in Maine (where we’d been living for a couple of years) and we had severe cabin fever. The temperature reached 70 degrees, which was extremely unusual for March. There was still snow on the ground, but  there was also a muddy river forming in our driveway by mid-day.

I opened the front door and let the kids out to play. They tentatively made their way down the front steps to the driveway, hopping over patches of snow. The baby was the fastest. She didn’t hesitate to jump into the muddy stream, covering herself from head to toe while her brother and sister squealed with delight watching her. She made everything fun!

The water was frigid and she lost her socks and eventually her diaper in it. Her brother was so concerned about “crabs in there” ! But she just kept playing. We laughed and clapped and watched her in her muddy playground. I don’t think there is a more vivid memory that my two oldest children have of being joyful in the moment than that day. It was all we had. And it was wonderful!

That experience taught me a lot about how to use what appears to be a setback or problem and changing it to an opportunity.

I think that’s the biggest trial of this life – finding the place where you feel rejuvenated for one more minute, and then watching that minute build upon itself, lifting you up to solid ground again….and returning to that place often…

…each time with more friends to share the newly found joy.

It means offering a new perspective that brings peace, happiness, fun, laughter, and possibility for healing, first for yourself, and then for another soul.

That’s what being an artist means to me. It’s not just the landscapes in pen and ink, or the faces on potatoes, or the choreographed dance.

It’s about the new and beautiful places it all takes us in our minds and hearts.

Right? ! 🙂

What If Today…You Lived With Arms Wide Open?

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“I’ll take a breath, take you by my side

Under the sunlight.

Welcome to this place

I’ll show you love;

I’ll show you everything

with arms wide open” ~Creed

“Ugh! Winter!” she’d groaned. “I hate winter!”

“I’m determined to like it this year,” I challenged. “What a waste of months of my life always wishing for something else!” She and I both suffer from the winter blues, when we become lesser versions of our best selves.

She and I had noticed the leaves on the trees earlier – the ones that are harbingers of the cold and limited daylight that are creeping in closer and settling down in our lives for the next five or six months. I’d noticed the pattern years ago and had tried various things like hiking to higher places where there were no trees to obstruct the light. But winter remained the enemy.

That was until I started my polar plunges last January – New Year’s day 2013.

“So, you know what my one goal is this winter?” I only have one goal at a time ( that’s a lie that I like to believe) because it’s the thing that shows up as a wall to my joy – the thing that if I refuse to push through it, it’ll continue to control me.

“What?” she asked as we rounded the bend and saw the beach. I’d missed the turn we were supposed to take because I can’t talk, shift gears, and pay attention to where I’m headed all at the same time. Funny how we ended up at the beach since we both crave a glimpse of it daily!

“I’m going to stand open-armed on the beach before my polar plunges and let the winter wind go through me instead of fighting it and wrapping my arms around me to stay warm (er).”

“Well, THAT’S a fun goal!” she said while rolling her eyes and silently admitting that she wasn’t going to enjoy THAT journey with me.

“You know, like fire-walkers. They just walk over the coals…”

“You’re going to find your chi, ” she interrupted. She uses different words to tell me that she understands what I’m talking about. I had to look up “chi” and I guess it’s true – I’m going to find my chi. That makes me laugh.

Whatever “chi” is, I know that I don’t have to “find” it. I have to stop fighting against it, blocking it, or whatever one does that stops one from feeling what is there to be felt at any given moment. It’s different for each of us. Isn’t it? What’s a struggle for me is  cake walk for you. But what IS the same for all of us is the choice we make to be the person who’s fully present and alive despite the circumstances – knowing that everything shows up as a challenge to choose how we experience the moment; it’s either a blessing or a curse, depending on our choice.

I’m done seeing winter as a time of fighting cold and darkness, even if that is only part of my experience.

I can’t wait! I’m so looking forward to bitter winds and stormy seas to knock me off my feet and swallow me up.

When I woke up this morning I had a private message from Lisa (my polar plunge comrade) waiting for me on Facebook. She wanted to go for a dip in the wee hours of the morning “if we were both up.” I was. She wasn’t. But that’s okay, ’cause it’s still too warm out.

But there will be other things to push through or work with today, I’m sure – many opportunities to find and balance your chi!

I just hope that today is your day to live with your arms wide open….even if it’s just a little wider. 🙂

What If Today…You Lived With Your Head In the Clouds?

This TED talk made me so happy! Now I want an iPhone to use the app for the Cloud Appreciation Society!

Gavin Pretor says about cloud watching:

“It’s a pointless activity, which is why it’s so important.

The digital world conspires to make us feel eternally busy, perpetually busy. You know when you’re not dealing with traditional pressures of earning a living, putting food on the table, raising a family, writing thank you letters, you have to now contend with answering a mountain of unanswered emails, updating a Facebook page, feeding your Twitter feed, and cloud-spotting legitimizes doing nothing.

And sometimes we need excuses to do nothing.”

Cloud lovers, watch the video and join the Cloud Appreciaton Society and download the free app today!

I Choose Light

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” ~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

“Well, Betsy, you do play around all the time!”

THAT was the one that stung.

The way it was said turned me inward for the better part of the day because it was true. Something I’d said in jest triggered a fear in a coworker, and before I knew what was really happening, I was being reprimanded by him.

“You’re kidding, right?” I asked with a smile as I stared across the room into once kind eyes that had turned dark and beady. Where was this coming from?

“No, I’m not.”

After dealing with the shock of that confrontation, apologizing for what I could and promising that I understood the new boundary that was set, I felt an impenetrable wall go up around my heart towards him, and went back to work in silence – the joy, the playfulness, and the love of life had nestled itself deep within me and told me it would come out when the coast was clear.

But I, on the other hand, vowed to keep it safe. And that’s how I spent the rest of my day.

Safe.

Dull.

Perfectly serious and careful with a smile on my face at all the appropriate times.

“You’re angry with me, Betsy. Let me explain….”

No, I wasn’t. I was composed and lifeless – not something he was used to and something that made him very uncomfortable. You see, he wanted to play with me still, But I didn’t trust him anymore.

“You were clear. I apologized. I crossed a line with you. Let’s just work. Okay?”

 (Just so you know, what I said was said in front of our boss, who also has a sense of humor and is always a part of our playful bantering. I’d just said something that triggered a fear in him about the reputation of his work ethic.) I got the message loud and clear.

I wasn’t really upset with him. Blindsided? Yes. But I didn’t feel the need to lash out or explain myself to him. We just worked quietly and pleasantly.

However, I was angry with myself and I didn’t know why.

I visited with my mom on my way home because she has great, positive energy. Yeah, I stole some from her! Then I took the boys for a walk and met a woman on her way to a Yom Kippur “break the fast” gathering in a nearby neighborhood. I felt the spark of joy starting up again, and the peaceful feeling that all was right in the world guide my steps home behind the little boys who’d once again left me in the dust!

(How ironic that I had that chance meeting with a woman celebrating Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. If you break down the word it is: at-one-ment. Seems like a message to me of becoming one with the light from God within me…if that makes sense.)

This morning it dawned on me that what had really happened yesterday was a moment of darkness meeting light. I was engaged in a war within me and had nearly lost another battle…again!.

Today I want to say thank you.

Thank you for your fears, your insecurities, your anger – your darkness in all its forms. I’m happy to know today that they are yours, not mine. I have enough of my own, thank you very much.

Thank you for being vulnerable enough to show me what scares you because you gave me a gift – I see that we are separate and yet we are connected; you have moments of darkness that confront my light and joy and say, “Prove to me that you are who you say you are! If you really are full of light, don’t be dimmed!”

I can tell you today, because I’ve been tested in the darkness – a darkness created by my reaction to your fears – that I have a light burning inside of me. A light that only I can extinguish. It doesn’t depend on your kind words or actions, although those things do strengthen our relationship. I know the truth now because I decided to stare down the facts – that the repeating pattern of shrinking and hiding my joy to make you feel better or comfortable, is “killing” me.

I can’t change you. I just enjoy you…sometimes. I’ll learn to respect your boundaries.

All I can do is choose to let the light inside of me shine. It’s so hard to fight the desire to hide out. But when I choose light, I choose to grow in courage in the midst of uncertainty. It’ll probably get easier over time.

So, if we meet in one of your dark moments, I’m going to be practicing. And if you want to continue playing with me, you’d better enjoy the light ’cause that’s where I’m headed.