Tag Archives: Lessons

Teach Your Children to be Grateful with a Family Gratitude Journal

gratitude journal pic monkeyBy Ali Katz

I feel lucky every day. There are the obvious reasons like my two healthy, beautiful boys, my supportive and loving husband, and my cozy, comfortable house that I adore every time I walk in the door.

Then there are the less obvious things like having exact change in my wallet at a cash register, finding boyfriend jeans that are so soft they feel like pajamas, and a great morning run.

The list goes on and on, some big items and some more insignificant: my wonderful family and friends, losing myself in a great book, and getting that perfect family picture where everyone is smiling and looking at the camera. Rich dark chocolate, dates with my husband, and a long phone call with my best friend. Seeing my kids’ faces in carpool and knowing that I will be hugging them momentarily, homemade pasta and an amazing blowout that lasts for days.

Memories are treasures, even the horribly embarrassing ones that I can’t even bring myself to write about yet. My life is comprised of the laughter and fun I have had in my first 37 years, and the hard times that have made me into the person I am today. I wouldn’t be as resilient and strong without learning how to navigate some really difficult situations and still hold my head up high.

I am constantly striving to create opportunities where my kids feel gratitude. Of course they have learned to say “thank you” when they receive a gift, but what I am going for is from the heart thanks for just the little things. I know that children are egocentric, and I don’t begrudge them those precious years where it is all about them. However, as they grow I pray that every year brings them a deeper understanding of the world around them, how they fit into it, and how they can make it a better place. As a mom I can only hope that they do become aware of all the insignificant wonders of the world that make life so sweet. You can look for problems, or find joy, and I hope with all my heart that their outlooks on life steer them in the direction of joy at every turn. And of course they will face hardships. I wish I could shield them from every heartache, but I wouldn’t be doing them any favors. My goal is for them to learn that difficult situations can teach you lessons without hardening you.

As a parent I think that we have to lead by example, take responsibility, and help our children form certain habits. Being grateful may take some practice for the little ones in our families. With this belief in mind, I started a Family Gratitude Journal. This small notebook  sits on our kitchen table with a pen. Every night at dinner we all write a quick note in it marking something we are grateful for that day. It could be a fun playdate, liking the meal, or not having any homework. It could be gratitude for a lovely family walk (that would be mine!) or scoring a goal at practice.

Getting started is super easy, and I know you will feel great about encouraging your family to notice the little pleasures of every day life. This is also something you can keep private, or do with a spouse. Keep it next to your bed if that works for you, and jot down one tidbit at the end of the day.

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Ali Katz, a native of Philadelphia, has lived in Houston for fifteen years. She enjoys reading, cooking, running and yoga, in addition to spending as much time as possible with her husband and two young sons. Ali started the website Daughter-in-Law Diaries with the intention of sharing her personal journey, and to help other daughters-in-law strengthen the bond and improve the relationship they have with their own 
mother-in-law. Please visit Ali online at www.daughterinlawdiaries.com

Life is Like That: How Letting Go Lets You See the Next Opportunity

celebrate-00031352271433You wanted that job – you thought you were the best candidate. You interviewed like a pro. You had letters of recommendation. You know the industry. Then you heard that they chose someone else. Life’s like that.

You saved and saved to go on the cruise of a lifetime – to the very places you have always wanted to go. While on the trip, a hurricane develops in area the ship was planning to go and you are forced to go to the places you have already been – not the exciting places you dreamed of seeing. Life’s like that.

That job that you thought you wanted and didn’t get made you available for a better job that you didn’t previously know about. Going back to searching for jobs, you saw a job that is an even better fit for you – your talents, interests and passions. You interviewed and now have the job of your dreams. Life’s like that.

You break up with someone who has been in your life for years. Though the relationship hasn’t been amazing, it also has been bad. You know you have settled but you felt it was always better to have an average someone than an amazing nobody. But now available, you meet that amazing person who finds you equally amazing. Life’s like that.

Life is as it is. But, we come to it with our expectations – that somehow life should deliver to us exactly what we want and if not, we are disappointed. We take it personally. We think there is some cosmic plan to get us or feel that we must have done something wrong that is now being held against us. We think life is a battle – that there are wins and losses, successes and failures. When really what is happening is that life simply just is.

Life is our classroom. When life goes our way, we celebrate. Celebration is good for the spirit and soul. We develop greater gratitude, energy and passion. And when life doesn’t go our way, we use the event to learn to be better and more capable next time. We can develop greater resilience, endurance and patience. We can develop greater empathy, determination and focus.

If we spend our time getting upset with the things in life that don’t work out, we use all our great energy staying stuck in disappointments instead of allowing life to be, and watching for new opportunities. Life’s events are not personal. It’s a classroom. We are always gathering information to respond in a great, successful and grateful way regardless of what happens. There is always the next moment for something amazing if we watch for it. If we close our minds and our hearts, we’ll miss that next opportunity.

As a greatness coach, I help people discover their unique abilities – their intrinsic greatness – and learn how to show up great, confident, and authentic to what life shares with them. The greatest challenge I see for myself and my clients is that our expectations always seem to color the events in our lives. We ride the highs and the lows. And depending on which place we are at the moment – the high or the low – determines if we love or hate life.

But the only way to live life is to love it. To see its value requires us to shift our perspective from the expectations that life should be as we need them to be, to one where life is as life is – and how it shows up is how we will show up back to it. Tough times will make us stronger. Great times will help us celebrate. Both are our choice. And constant in this choice is that no matter what happens, we realize that life’s like that. It’s not personal – it just is. And when we get to that realization, we don’t need to be overwhelmed by any moment. We then have the awareness to use our best energy to find value and be part of the next amazing life moment.

“Kill Your Darlings” and Confront Your Demons

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SPOILER ALERT for those not familiar with the history of the Beat Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac & William Burroughs) and the story of the Lucien Carr murder of David Kammerer. 

To be honest, the main reason I went to see Kill Your Darlings this weekend is because Arclight Hollywood was hosting a Q&A with actor Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) afterwards, and being in the same room with him would officially put me one degree away from the Hollywood love of my life – Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man). 

I had seen a few of Dane’s previous movies and was always impressed by his powerful and dark performances. However, at the end of Darlings I was spellbound. The movie follows poet Allen Ginsberg (played by Daniel Radcliffe) during his freshman year at Columbia University – where he meets the rest of the beat poet generation, including the charismatic and troubled Lucien Carr (Dehaan). Together they set forth to ignite a literary revolution, but instead find themselves tangled in the web of Lucien’s identity crisis which leads to the murder of their friend and Lucien’s ex lover David Kammerer.

I had Googled the story before I went and I knew the details were horrible. The real Lucien Carr only spent two years in prison for the murder, though he stabbed David and weighed the body down with rocks before drowning him in the Hudson River. He was able to get less time because he convinced the court it was an honor killing. In 1944, if a heterosexual man kills a homosexual man making “unwanted advances” you serve a lesser time in prison. It’s disgusting and disturbing and in print there’s no sympathy for Lucien to be found.

As disturbed as I was by the circumstances of the story, Dehaan gave a performance that was haunting. I’ve been talking about the movie non-stop since I saw it. Starting with the title sequence (which you can see below) and the first time he says Allen, with his voice breaking like that, it chills to the bone. It’s only two syllables but you can hear the absolute terror in them. His life is over if Allen hands in that statement. Lucien will be forced not only to spend the rest of his life in prison but he’ll have to come to terms with who he really is – and the idea of that is so paralyzingly petrifying that he killed a man to stop it from happening.

I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be a closeted gay man, especially in the 1940s. But we are exploring fear this week on Intent, and this movie has made me think a lot about the power we give fear. Lucien is the most extreme example of what can happen if we let ourselves be controlled by fear. Even before the murder Lucien has to banish the things and people he loves most from his life because he’s scared of being honest with himself and the world (granted, coming out of the closet in 1944 was virtually impossible). But that is the great thing about movies, especially ones like this. They enable us to use the cinematic drama to examine ourselves – our flaws, our weaknesses and the state of our own human condition. Are we as deeply troubled as Lucien Carr? I very sincerely hope not, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from him and this story.

I’ve been asking myself since Saturday night what fear do I let control me? I’m afraid that as badly as I want to be a screenwriter that I don’t have the talent or the gumption to make it. I am afraid of being alone forever. I am afraid of being rejected or finding out the people I love and respect most honestly don’t like me. And these fears have a daily impact on my life. This weekend I spent more time playing Candy Crush Saga than I did working on my screenplay treatment outline. I absolutely refuse to fill out an OkCupid profile even though I’ve read a quarter of my generation now meets their significant other online. I sulked home alone eating chocolate chip cookies instead of going to a good friend’s improv show because the group didn’t invite me to join.

By themselves these seem like small meaningless choices. Confronting these fears that I harbor is the first step in making braver choices in my life. It’s the key to embracing the good things I have around me and going after the things I desire, after my passions and after dreams.

Take a moment today and think about the choices you’ve made in the past week. Which ones have you made out of fear and which ones have you made in spite of it? Pick one of the former and find a way to change it. I’ve made a pact with myself that there will be no Candy Crush Saga until I’ve outlined at least one scene or mapped a character for my movie. I’ve made a pact with myself to no longer be held back by fear.

Kill Your Darlings was released October 16.

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Photo from Tumblr. 

Lessons in Teamwork from the SF Giants

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

I have been so excited and inspired by this year’s baseball post-season and the big World Series victory by the San Francisco Giants.  As a Bay Area native, a lifelong baseball fan, and someone who has been fortunate enough to have the Giants as a client this year, of course I was rooting for them with passion.

The fact that the Giants had not won a World Series since moving from New York to San Francisco (in 1958) and that we haven’t had a major sport championship here in the Bay Area since the 49ers won the Super Bowl in 1994, made it that much more exciting and meaningful.

But, the biggest reason I’ve so excited and inspired this year is because of this incredible San Francisco Giants TEAM.  I’ve probably followed this season and this team as closely as any other sports team or season in my entire life – and, for me, that’s saying a lot.  With their great young pitching staff, cast of interesting and unique characters, and lack of huge superstars and egos, I liked them a lot, right from the start of the season – and began to fall in love with them as the season went on.  It wasn’t simply because they won games, which they did (although not excessively or even impressively at times); it was how they won their games and, more important, how they played the game and worked as a team that impressed me most.

This team is an inspiration, not just to baseball fans, young kids who play the game, or people who are into sports in general – but for any and all of us who have to work with others (which most of do) to get things done in our work, our family, our community, and our life. No one expected this team to win the World Series – they didn’t have the talent, experience, or make-up to become champions, said the "experts." But, they did it anyway and took all of us who followed them this year on the ride of our baseball lives watching them do so.

As someone who is passionate about teamwork, loves working with teams myself, and gets hired to speak about and train people to effectively team up with each other, I believe this year’s San Francisco Giants put on a clinic all season long (and especially these past few weeks) in what teamwork should look like.

Here are a few lessons about teamwork we can all learn from the magic of the 2010 San Francisco Giants:

1)  Be Who You Are – Authenticity is essential in life and in building successful teams.  It’s okay and often important to be a little different, to do things your own way, and to give people on your team the space to be themselves.  This year’s San Francisco Giants were made of a somewhat strange array of characters – from Brian Wilson, to Aubrey Huff, to Tim Lincecum, to Juan Uribe, and on down the line.  They didn’t always look like champions and often did and said some pretty odd and quirky things, but it all worked, kept them loose, and helped them bond with each other and the city of San Francisco.  For us to create a strong team around us we have to remember to be ourselves and allow the team to take on its own unique personality.

2)  It’s More About Heart Than Talent – The Giants were a team that didn’t always look good on paper, which is why they were often counted out by the so called "experts."  Even with their great young pitching staff, their lineup didn’t include any superstars or big sluggers.  They called themselves "misfits and castoffs" – as many of them had been let go by other teams and had been given up on in the process.  They beat many teams during the regular season and definitely in the post-season who had much more talent than they did.  However, they exemplified the importance of heart in the way they played and won games – doing whatever it took to get it done.  Guys like Cody Ross, Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres, and others showed us how to play with heart and like a champion, even if the guys on the other team had more talent than they did.

3)  Play For Each Other – Larry Baer, the President of the San Francisco Giants (someone I’ve had the honor of getting to know a bit this year), said something important about this team in an interview he did after they won the National League Pennant. He said, "These guys do more than play with each other, they play for each other." Larry was right and that is such an important and unique quality for a team to have. Playing with each other is essential to success. But, becoming a truly great team requires us to play for one another. Playing for others means we have each other’s backs, we’re there for our teammates, and we want to succeed for the people around us (in addition to ourselves) in a way that inspires greatness and excellence in all of us.

4)  Don’t Listen to the Naysayers – In life, business, and, of course, baseball there are always naysayers – people who don’t think you and those around you can do it. The Giants had many naysayers, in fact they didn’t usually even get mentioned as real contenders for much of the season and were written off many times, even during the World Series, which they won handily. It’s a good thing (for them and all of their fans) that they didn’t listen to those naysayers. As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently said, "No one has the power to make me feel inferior without my permission." While it can be important and helpful to get feedback from others, especially critical feedback, listening to critics and naysayers who don’t believe in your and your team will never benefit you and those around you.

5)  Be Creative and Flexible – The San Francisco Giants had to be quite creative and flexible throughout the entire season and all through the post season in order to win. They brought in new players, adjusted their lineup (even in the World Series), and did whatever they had to do to get the job done. Change can be challenging and stressful for a team, but in most cases it’s essential for success. We can’t get fixed into thinking things can only be done a certain way or that everyone has to maintain their same role throughout the entire process – that’s not how life, business, or baseball truly works. Our ability to be flexible and creative is often directly related to our ability to create success and fulfillment for ourselves and our team. As an example of this, both Cody Ross and Edgar Renteria (who were each named the MVP of the NLCS and World Series respectively), didn’t even play that much down the stretch, but stepped up when called upon and delivered.

6)  Have Fun and Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously – For us to have success on an individual and group level, we have to have some fun.  The San Francisco Giants had fun all year long, especially in the post season.  They knew the importance of what they were doing, but never lost their sense of humor and didn’t take themselves too seriously in the process.  Whether it was Aubrey Huff’s "rally thong," Brian Wilson’s black dyed beard and crazy interviews, or Tim Lincecum’s hair and language – these guys always seemed to have a good time, which kept them loose and made it that much more fun to root for them.  The more fun we have, the more relaxed we are…and the better we perform and bond with those around us.

7)  Appreciate Each Other – One of, if not the, most important aspects of being a true championship team (in my humble opinion), is the ability to appreciate those around you. Understanding and exercising the power of appreciation makes everyone around you feel good, know they’re valued, and helps bring out the best in each person. If you listened to their post-game interviews throughout the year, in the playoffs, and especially after the final game of the World Series, the San Francisco Giants understood and embodied appreciation for one another. They praised each other, gave credit to one another, and pumped each other up – in an authentic way. It’s one thing to pay lip service to appreciation and it’s another thing altogether to do it genuinely. They truly put their egos aside in so many ways, did what they had to do to win, and appreciated each other along the way. Given the nature of their team, the shortcomings they had, and the adversity they almost always seemed to find themselves in – they had to count on each other and appreciate each other’s talent, because without that synergy and support, they never would have become World Series Champions.

I’m grateful to the San Francisco Giants for not only playing so well this year, but for playing the way they did.  It was an inspiration to watch and they are (and will always remain) a beautiful and powerful example of what can happen when a group of individuals come together and truly play as a team.  Not only did they win a championship and inspire a city, they taught us all a great deal about the art of teamwork and for that I salute them as the true champions they are!

What have you learned about teamwork from watching the San Francisco Giants win the World Series?  What can you do to be an even better team player in your work, your family, your community, and your life?  Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, and more on my blog here.

To listen to this week’s audio podcast, including additional thoughts, ideas, and tips, click here.

What Baseball Can Teach Us About Life

 With all the excitement of the playoffs and the World Series (which, thanks to the success of the San Francisco Giants, we get to experience directly here in the Bay Area), I’ve been thinking about, watching, and appreciating the great game baseball a lot these past few weeks.  As someone who spent eighteen years of my life (from the age of seven until the age of twenty five) playing organized baseball and who has been a huge fan all my life, the game has taught me a great deal.

Whether you’ve played (or still play) baseball yourself, watch it as a fan, or even if you don’t particularly like it, understand it, care about it, or think it’s boring (which I know some people do), the game of baseball can teach us so many important things about life.

The fact that there are seemingly endless metaphors and universal life lessons that can be gleaned from baseball is one of the many things that make the game so interesting, exciting, and magical in my opinion.

Here are some key lessons from baseball I’ve been reminded of these past few weeks as I’ve been following the Giants with passion and enjoying the excitement of the post-season:

1)  Appreciate the moment.  It’s so easy in life to take things for granted, focus too much on the outcome, and worry about our own agenda or performance – all things I did for much of my own baseball career.  Doing this, as we’ve all learned the hard way, causes us to miss the magic of the moment.  As I’ve continued to remind the folks within the San Francisco Giants organization whom I’ve had the honor of working with as a client this year, the most important thing to do in the midst of the excitement, intensity, and pressure of competition – whether it’s in baseball or in life – is to enjoy and be grateful for the experience right now.  As baseball teaches us, if we hold our breath and wait for it "all to work out," if often doesn’t and we lose opportunity to appreciate what’s happening, while it’s happening, which is the only way we can authentically enjoy anything in life.

2)  Take it one step at a time.  As most baseball coaches preach to their players – "Take things one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time, one inning at a time, and one game at a time."  While these may be some of the oldest baseball cliches in the book, they’re cliches for a reason – they’re true, and not just for baseball.  The better you are at letting go of what just happened, not worrying about what’s coming up, and staying in each moment of your experience as it happens – the more likely you are to enjoy yourself and perform at your best.  You never know how things are going to unfold and you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself.  According to all of the "experts," the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies were supposed to be playing in the World Series, not the Giants and the Texas Rangers.

3)  Focus on what you can control.  In baseball, work, and life, there are so many things we can’t control (i.e. what other people do, external factors, and ultimately the results), but we always have control over our attitude and our effort.  Remembering what you can and can’t control, and putting your attention on your attitude and effort are key elements in staying focused and positive, and in reducing stress and negativity.  In baseball, if you waste your time getting upset about the calls by the umpire, the play of the other guys on your team, the decisions your manager makes, the weather conditions, what the fans and media have to say, and more, you’ll make yourself crazy and render yourself ineffective in the game.  The same is true in life – we spend and waste so much energy on stuff we have no control over.  When we shift our focus to what we can control (our attitude and effort), we’re empowered.

4)  Failure is part of the game.  There is so much failure in baseball, even when you’re a really good player or team.  Cody Ross, an outfielder for the Giants, won the Most Valuable Player award of the National League Championship Series against the Phillies last week.  He had a great series and hit .350, which is a fantastic batting average.  However, this means he got out (i.e. failed) 65% of the time.  Even when you’re considered the "best," which he was for that series, you still have to deal with a lot of failure in baseball.  The two teams in the World Series this year, the Giants and the Rangers, each lost 70 and 72 games respectively during the regular season.  That’s a lot of failure…and, they’re really good!  This is also true in life.  The question isn’t whether or not we’ll fail; it’s how we’ll deal with it when it happens that’s most important.  Remembering that failure is an essential part of the game of life can help us let go of unnecessary fear, worry, and self judgment.

5)  Swing hard, just in case you hit it.  Our fear of failure and embarrassment often holds us back from really going for it.  There were many times in my baseball career that I played tentatively, so as not to fail or lose. However, the best way to approach the game, as well as life itself, is with passion. Juan Uribe, the Giants third baseman, hit the game winning home run in Game 6 of last week’s National League Championship Series (sending the Giants to the World Series).  He’s a guy who swings about as hard as anyone in baseball.  Sometimes he misses and can look bad at the plate.  However, when he hits it, as he did last weekend, he has the ability to drive the ball out of the ballpark and win the game in heroic fashion.  Swinging hard in life, just in case we hit it, is a great way to approach many of the important things we do.  Imagine what your life and career would look like it you weren’t afraid to fail or embarrass yourself?

6)  Don’t be a front-runner.  During the post-season, there are lots of "front-runners," (i.e. fans, media, and others jumping on the "band wagon" when a team starts winning games and doing well). We live in a culture that loves winners and makes fun of losers. While this makes sense in baseball and sports, it can be quite damaging in business, relationships, and life. Sadly, we’re often "front-runners" with ourselves – thinking that we’re only as good as our performance or liking ourselves better based on external factors (money, accomplishments, weight, status, etc.). The most successful baseball players I’ve ever seen or known and the most fulfilled people I’ve ever been around, don’t get too caught up in their own "hype" when they’re doing well and don’t get too stuck in their own "black hole" when they’re in a slump. Keeping it real with yourself and others and not being a front-runner is critically important to creating authentic success and fulfillment in life.

7)  It ain’t over ’til it’s over.  As the great and somewhat quirky hall-of-fame catcher from the New York Yankees Yogi Berra famously said, "It’s ain’t over ’til it’s over." This is, of course, true in baseball and in life. So often individuals and teams get counted out – which was true for both of the teams playing in this year’s World Series, as well as many of the individual players on both squads, especially the Giants. However, baseball is a game of many second chances and opportunities for redemption – just ask Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. His story of recover from addiction is inspiring and a great example of perseverance. We are confronted on a daily basis in life with opportunities to give up, give in, and quit. Remembering that "it ain’t over ’til it’s over" is important for us in those low moments when we feel like throwing in the towel. Don’t give up – you never know what’s going to happen; as we’re continually reminded about through the great game of baseball and the great experience of life.


Whether you love baseball like I do, get into it from time to time (especially at this time of year), or think it’s a ridiculous and boring game – I hope you’re able to watch the World Series over this next week and not only appreciate it for the exciting sporting event that it is, but also look more deeply into the beautiful way it can teach us so much about ourselves and how to live life to its fullest.

What have you learned from baseball (or any other sport or activity) that you can use in life to be more successful and fulfilled? Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, and more on my blog here.

To listen to this week’s audio podcast, including additional thoughts, ideas, and tips, click here.

 

Coming Clean: It’s Spirituality for Dogs

There’s something so old fashioned about writing a book. The time it takes to actually write it, the process of getting it edited and published and then the act of hitting the road to actually promote and sell it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a charm and romance to it, and for a writer/creator there’s nothing quite like holding that hard cover in your hands, turning those crisp pages and seeing your own words in black and white, but…truth be told, you can’t help but feel that maybe you’re part of a slowly dying art.

The fact is that between the time you finish that last sentence in your book and the date on which it comes out, an enormous amount of time goes by. So when that point comes to actually start doing the first interviews, podcasts, and blogs to push the product, it’s quite an odyssey in retrospect and/or revisionism.

In that regard, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about how to answer that inevitable first question “so what’s Walking Wisdom about?” Ideally an author generates a clear and cogent elevator pitch that will result in fantastical rapid sales. Because my book is alternatively dog and Deepak heavy, there’s an obvious pressure to build the marketing of it around one of those two publishing stalwarts. But the truth is both my papa and my overgrown puppy are just means to an end. Really the book is about the search for something more, dare I call it spirituality.

Yikes, probably not what my publishers really want to hear on the eve of the book’s release, because, well spirituality is kind of a taboo word. But hey, it’s the truth. Seriously, put yourself in my shoes: for the last 25 years I have grown up around Mr. Spirituality aka Deepak Chopra (for my prior 10 years, he wasn’t all that spiritual). When my dad first started talking about stuff like yoga and meditation back in the day, people branded him a witch doctor and snake oil salesman. Today – in fact a minute ago – when I Googled “Yoga,” 61,900,000 entries came up. Oh how the times have changed.

But even though the notion of spirituality has become somewhat mainstream, the quest for it still seems tangled in a web of religiosity and cluttered with quasi quantum physics and existential angst. And not to say that at more evolved stages of spiritual pursuit, the search for meaning and purpose is not fraught with deeper questions and explanations, but in the commercialism of spirituality and more overtly the commodity of the New Age (whatever that is), we too often seem to over-complicate things.

On the contrary, Walking Wisdom is really about decoding and demystifying the idea of spirituality. True story: when I originally pitched the book, I titled it Spirituality for Dogs which the eventual buyer, my publisher, quickly dismissed and replaced with our current title which felt more commercial and “mass market.” I hope for all our sakes they’re right. But no matter what the title screams, the pages inside tell the real story. I wanted to call it Spirituality for Dogs because put through the crucible of a mutt like mine, I – and my father who I recruited onto the case – were able to see the values and ethos of this vague and ineffable term spirituality in their most stark and basic form. Qualities like love and devotion, loyalty, forgiveness, present moment awareness, unboundedness and more, these are spiritual qualities that not only don’t require complex or quantum deconstructions, but that are also readily apparent in men’s best friends. There’s something to be said about get a grasp on the simpler things in life before moving onto the trickier ones, and in this case every dog – and even Deepak – gets to have his day.

About those dogs. I’ve had two in my life, our first who died tragically only after 2 years with us and our latest Cleo, a rescue who’s now been with us for over a decade and is still going strong. Both of them have taught us amazing and long-lasting lessons and I really do believe that kids that grow up with animals, both my sister and I and now our respective kids offering up some anecdotal evidence, evolve to be kinder, more compassionate, and aware people. In the process of writing this book, I’ve also learned a lot more about the community of people that feel the same way I do about dogs in particular. And that’s led to some great partnerships including www.freekibble.com who does amazing work to support rescue and shelter animals and whom I urge you to support either by making a donation or buying a copy of the book, a portion of proceeds from which go to Freekibble. I’m also collaborating with www.scribd.com, who amongst other things, has set up an ebook for users to upload their own stories, pictures, and thoughts on the most important things they have learned from their dogs, dads and other beings in their lives.  Please please please participate.

So there you go. That’s the honest, unfiltered, unedited, non market tested truth about what I think my book is about. Apologies in advance if you see me playing the dog or Deepak expert in an effort to pitch the product. That’s what us authors have to do after the fact. But feel free to remind me that at the core of it, this is a book about dads, dogs, dudes, and all those that we love searching for some of the simple things in life before we get onto the murkier ones, at which point by the way I’ll once more happily call in the “big dog” aka Mr. Spirituality to help break it down.

 PHOTO (cc): Flickr / emdot

UNFOLDING OUR SENSE OF SUPREME PERCEPION AND VALUES

UNFOLDING OUR SENSE OF SUPREME PERCEPION AND VALUES
 
   According to well-known spiritual experts throughout the different ages and places; nothing so coordinates the faculties and enhances the true prestige of man as an unfolding sense of higher perception and values. In order to succeed on this supreme effort our soul has to get rid of a multitude of anxieties and perturbations. Also to deny the constant play of opposed forces to our spiritual development. The lives of great spiritual leaders have proven many times that when man finds the inspiration from the Supreme he has always found the necessary strength to harmonize opposing vibrations. To become an spiritual man or woman we have to be fully aware that the true strength and beauty of daily mental actions have to be under the rules of our Self . This sounds such an easy and enjoyable task, but believe me is one of the most difficult actions ever made by us.
 This Self has responded to aspirations and made us aware of its existence and supremacy. A magic spiritual life has to touch our hearts and brains. It is when we even partially succeed on this when we do our best to fully live a dual life. We fulfill our responsibilities from our physical beings with gusto and also we, in a very humble, patient and harmonious way, dedicate more time to our daily mediations because it is from them where we obtain sweet and strong energies. We feel like a blooming red rose unfolding so God can smell its wonderful fragrance and also enjoy its beauty.
A great master said something about this topic:
”He who is desirous to learn how to benefit humanity and believes himself to read the characters of other people, must begin first of all to learn to know himself, to appreciate his own character at its true value”
This master also said:”Read and study for there is an object””Study and prepare” Preparations means experiencing life. Experiencing life in the ordinary sense is not our answer. It is inner self who must interpret in an appropriate manner every single of our life experiences. We must also think in all of our accumulated karma. It is the vibration of our inner personality which takes a higher measure and becomes a point of attraction for higher forces. This is indeed the secret behind THE SECRET.
 
This has been one of my most difficult writings, so my humble suggestion is that spend some time mediation upon the above.
With supreme eternal love and true appreciation.
Amorifer-alden

Cash Flow Fantasies: Lessons from A Dreamer

The first gift I ever asked for as a little girl was a cash register. My dad found one for me, and I added up values for everything I could find. Paper, pencils, pots and pans, anything within reach. Numbers were fun. I had a natural ability to think quickly with them, and math became my favorite subject in school.

            But in college, when it was time to choose a career path, I got stuck on having to be a CPA. Preparing taxes? Is that what I have to do if I love numbers? I also loved being with people and having big conversations about growth and relationships. So I started to fantasize.

 

Lesson #1: When you’re stuck in a place or a habit or a state of mind, fantasy is the way out.

            Out in the world, there was a positive conversation women could be having around money, that wasn’t happening. Instead, there was disparaging chatter that women couldn’t balance their checkbooks, and that they spend money irresponsibly. More alarming than the chit chat was the realization that it held some truth. College women (and men) were getting credit cards and getting into debt, myself included. We didn’t pay attention to how much things cost, or whether we had enough income to cover them.

I got excited. I could help! I zeroed in on my agility with numbers and my love of working with people and defined my own field. I decided to investigate people’s financial chaos, and counsel them to create financial clarity. I would help them to feel more empowered to make better decisions with their money, whether that was to get out of debt, or to get a handle on their monthly cash flow. 

            Enjoying myself outlandishly, I fantasized again about reaching thousands more women than I could reach one-on-one, and eventually, GreenSherpa was born.

 

Lesson #2: Make an exercise of defining what you love and then dreaming it.

            Maybe your fantasy is as simple as to get a job. Or to quit your job and to go back to baking. Maybe your fantasy seems absolutely unreasonable and silly to imagine. But wait! Fantasy opens doors. We can’t be creative if we’re living in fear of the creative process. If you gave yourself a moment to sneak in your unreasonable dreams, what would they look like? How would they sound? How would they affect your cash flow?

 

Lesson #3: Even when you’re not stuck, fantasy makes you grow.

I have a good job. I love my family. But when I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional tennis player. Recently I began to wonder, what if I still wanted that—today, at age thirty-something, to become a professional tennis player? I made a practice of imagining what that would be like, how fulfilling it would be. I found a great book on a playing professionally, and before long, a friend got in touch and asked if I wanted to join the local circuit. I’m not a professional tennis player. But if I hadn’t started toying with what seemed unrealistic, just for the fun of it, I never would have created that opening in my life, to re-engage in tennis on this level.

The assumption is that you can let your fantasy drive your reality. Want to make better money? Live your dream job every day? Play professional tennis at the age of 50? Get in touch with those ultra fantasies. Go for them like you believe they can occur. Then notice what starts to happen after a week. A month. Which fantasy will be the beginning of your next opportunity?

Lessons From Haiti

*

2010 is a 3 global year, and 3 is the number of communication. Ironically perhaps, what we most need to learn from this heartbreaking catastrophe is being communicated to the rest of the world through Haiti’s national motto:  L’Union Fait La Force. STRENGTH THROUGH UNITY.

Over many years, we have seen how the Haitian people help each other through crisis after crisis. They have had to endure more pain and misery than most others, and do not deserve this ongoing bombardment of devastating and terrifying situations. Some people believe that this is Haiti’s karma, or that they brought their misfortunes upon themselves. What a conceited and narrow-minded point of view! It could be that Haiti is OUR karma – the lesson we most need to learn at this time: which is that there really is STRENGTH IN UNITY. Humanity must ‘stick together’ in order to remain whole. When a part of the human fabric gets torn, we have to put less urgent matters aside and find out exactly what it needs in order to mend (heal).

Every one of us should be trying to help Haiti in some way right now, even if we just give it our full attention – because it is reflecting the condition of the human will, which is battered and torn, and worn out!  The Will it’s still there. Stunned and terrified yet again, but still there. Haiti was the only island in the area that gained its independence partly through a slave uprising. The Haitian people have a will so strong that they have never stopped trying to move forward, despite having none of the advantages that the rest of the world has, and despite everything they have endured over the course of time.

The Haitian people survived many natural, political and socio-economic disasters. In 2008 alone, Haiti was hit by 4 hurricanes in which thousands died and many more thousands were displaced through flooding and mudslides. And displacement is yet another trauma that has become common to the Haitian people, and another mirror of what is happening all over the world – people losing their homes (shelter), and running out of food and water.

At the same time, in Washington DC, the other end of this spectrum is also in the news today: 4 major bankers at a hearing before the US Congress, to determine what, if anything, they did wrong. So, both the richest and the poorest people are on the world stage at exactly the same time – in stark contrast to each other – and undeniably connected by their oppositeness.

On the one hand, we see the ones who took it all and, on the other, those who were left with nothing at all, not even the means to survive without direct ongoing help from the outside world. There are the bankers believing they are too big to fail – and there are the Haitian people wondering if they are big enough to matter. After last year’s profusion of 11 energy, the big picture has gained a lot of depth and feeling and, suddenly, we reach a deeper understanding of how inequality (imbalance) is tearing humanity apart.

It is the will in all of us that wants to help Haiti because ’! “I AM” and “WE ARE” are an alternating weave of the same cloth. One holds the other in place and provides structure and balance.  It’s not enough to help Haiti get through yet another assault and then leave her helpless to defend herself from the next one. Haiti needs to be repaired – HEALED – from the inside out, and given the means to maintain and protect herself, otherwise the fabric of humanity starts to rip apart at that very geographical point. The outpouring of love that is going there now from all over the world is certainly a good start, because, right now, “I AM must form ‘WE ARE’, and ‘we are’ must act as ONE!!!

Haiti must be a priority for ALL human beings because this dreadful event is making us aware of a very weak spot in our fabric. The Haitian people are not the weak spot, far from it. Our weakest link is our own tendency to ignore people who we believe are ‘beneath’ us in some way. The downtrodden. Our ignorance is measured by what we ignore and usually comes across as indifference. Perhaps if we didn’t turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, or a cold heart to the plight of others, we wouldn’t lose our powers of sight, hearing, and even the will to live as we age.

Yes, we need to help ourselves on many levels, but self-help and self interest has come at the cost of humanity’s overall interests, to the extent that we ONLY help our selves or those who serve our immediate advantage. If people do not help each other to survive and flourish, people will not survive or flourish.

The continuing collapse of the current system is shaking us all. Shaking us TO our senses. We can see that the system itself discourages caring, compassion and respect because it has no heart with which to feel or even care about such things. Haiti is tugging at our hearts and getting them ticking again, so that they can start to pound with love, consideration and helpfulness. Haiti is helping us to evolve right now, and we must give Haiti all the help we can give it. Our tendency to help people out of guilt is evolving. When we help people because we genuinely care, a new world of possibilities opens up simply because we are engaged, involved, and feeling it.

2010 is a 3 Global Year – the number (among other things) of personal and collective HAPPINESS. January is the 1st month. Add that to the 3 global year and we find ourselves in a 4 global month – the number of restriction and breakthrough. In January of any 3 year we must face what is making us unhappy and heal it – not ignore it – before a greater level of happiness can be experienced. We cannot sustain happiness while others suffer – not if we are fully conscious.

L’Union Fait La Force

STRENGTH THROUGH UNITY

  

More on the 3 energy of 2010 coming soon……

Eat An Abba Zabba Bar

Ladies and gentlemen, a moment of your time because moments are all we have.

“A man opened the bottom drawer of his wife’s bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is not a slip. This is lingerie.’ He discarded the tissue and handed his friend the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached. ‘Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion.’

“He took the slip from his friend and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he simply and quietly shut the drawer.”

“The meaning of life,” said Kafka, “ is that it stops.”

Life is short. And then you die. Forget about whatever is making you crazy today. There will be new things making you crazy tomorrow. Or the day after.

You want to know what you should do today? You should go out and buy an Abba Zabba Bar. You remember what that is? It’s a kind of candy with a striped package that you probably haven’t eaten since the fifth grade. And even then you were warned that it would rot your teeth. Or pull out the fillings on teeth that had already rotted. And they were right, Abba Zabba isn’t good for you teeth. It may, however, be very good for your spirits.

Eating an Abba Zabba Bar is a good idea because it probably isn’t an idea you’ve had in a while. Sometimes the best new idea we can visit is an old idea revisited. Eating this zany candy bar would probably be an out-of-the-ordinary experience. It may, however, remind you that sometimes nothing is healthier than doing something out of the ordinary. Eating healthy food doesn’t necessarily make you a healthy of spirit. Hitler was a vegetarian. Being sensible sometimes just doesn’t make sense. People who are always right are usually wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting a diet of Abba Zabba. Though, speaking of ideas that are all wet, what about the guy who swears he lost 250 pounds eating nothing but Submarine sandwiches.
Nor am I suggesting you eat Abba Zabba to drop a few pounds. I know that’s not reasonable. I am suggesting you eat an Abba Zabba to drop the excessive reasonableness that often weighs our life down. By the way, if you can’t get to a store immediately, but do want to drop a few pounds of reasonableness immediately, try saying Abba Zabba 20 times as fast as you can. Yabba, dabba, dabba, just see if you can do it.

Eating an Abba Zabba is a symbol of doing something that is ridiculous but won’t kill you or hurt others. Want another idea? Why not wrap a tortilla around an O Henry bar? Or why not get out your kids’ poster paints and paint one of your feet purple? Or paint the space between your toes in any color, then wait for the paint to dry, put on your socks and shoes, and go to work, but don’t tell anyone else. All day long you will be laughing to yourself. Others will think you’re up to something. “Why else would she be laughing?”

Remember the lingerie left in the drawer? The moment before we die there will inevitably be a few things we’ve done that we’re sorry for. And while that’s true for all of us, it won’t be because you ate an Abba Zabba bar. Eating an Abba Zabba when you’re old enough to sit through an evening with a life insurance agent won’t be one of your regrets. In fact, little assures us of a life that has meaning than driving a nail into the day and hanging up a sign on our soul that says: “Gone fishing.”

“Fishing for a good time,” sings Tom Waits, “starts with throwing in a line.” Some of us are so busy fishing for success or happiness we forget what real success is or what makes us happy. Two scoops please.

Most of us are breast-fed on social success notions. By the time we grow up we often forget how easy it is to make ourselves happy. “If you really want to be happy;” said Sister Mary Tricky, “nobody can stop you.” Don’t worry. Be happy. Or at least be happy you only have your problems.

Guilt, a friend likes to remind me, is somebody else’s emotion. Forget about it. Forget about guilt. If you have to blame someone, blame your mother or your father. They may not be guilty but are probably the most used to taking the blame. If all else fails think about changing who you are, and/or what or who you’re blaming for who you’re not. “The greater part of our happiness or our misery,” said Martha Washington, “depends most often on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”

If you want to leave your kids something leave them laughing. Or, leave them a picture of you smiling.

Little lifts spirits like being in good spirits. Doing something silly isn’t silly. Anymore than doing something seriously necessarily makes it serious stuff. Want some ideas? Think of the best joke you can tell and tell your friends one at a time, and record them laughing, and give them a copy of the tape so they can play it back sometime when they’re not laughing. Or take a run, in the rain, wearing pajamas. Or rent a tux and take yourself out for dinner to a hamburger joint, and drive up to valet parking on your kid’s tricycle. Or take a hot bath wearing Groucho glasses and line the tub’s rim with chocolate covered bonbons. You won’t drown but your momentary concerns may.

When my daughter was a child she was given a bathrobe. She was told, “It’s for the hot tub.” Sure enough. My daughter put on the robe and walked straight into the hot tub. Telling that story still makes me laugh. Her wearing the bathrobe into the hot tub made the memory precious. Doing something that is ridiculous, that makes you look ridiculous isn’t ridiculous. What’s ridiculous is wearing an emotional straitjacket to life’s banquet and wondering why our soul is starving.

The number one illness in North America today is Depression. And the number one cause for Depression today is stress. And the number one cause of stress today is people is the frustration of trying to control events that are not in our control. In order to find our way in life we have to lose stress. My suggestions is to go Teflon not Velcro. Let the stress that others lay on you, or you lay on yourself, slide off like two fried eggs in a well-greased pan. People who are stuck on themselves get stuck in themselves. There is no quicksand like ego. Get stuck in it and you’re sunk. Ego, ergo, I go.

When you realize that you really can’t afford that car or the Prada purse that you thought you needed to make you happy, buy an Abba Zabba Bar. You’ll find out how much sweeter it is to want less and enjoy more. Desire fuels desire. Getting what we want doesn’t keep us from wanting – anymore than getting who we want keeps many of us from looking at who else we might want.

“Thou shall not covet,” says scripture. Or as Bart Simpson says: “Keep your fingers off my Butterfinger.” The stuff that looks sweet in life is seldom sweeter than the look we give it. Remember mama Martha Washington. Life is sweeter when we’re sweet on life. Give your self some smiling room because too soon we’re all taken away to make more room.

I’d like you to stop and think for a moment about what was the most ridiculous thing you ever did that others do or don’t know about. Now tell me, when you think back on this event isn’t it one of the moments in your life you most treasure? And tell me if one day, when maybe your grandkids are sitting next to you and you want to share a laugh, won’t they get a kick out of hearing that story. For sure, you will.

Life is short. Laugh more. Do something silly for yourself. And by the way, I’d check the mirror. I think you have a piece of Abba Zabba stuck between your teeth.

Noah benShea, Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved

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