The Play of Miracles

What a miracle it is that we have the power to play at creating our dreams.  Yet it is tempting to wait on the sidelines for miracles to happen to us.

 Miracles probably have always required that the recipient participate.  I don’t imagine that Jesus forced Lazarus to rise from the dead. Lazarus was probably free to choose to stay dead if he had so wanted.

Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a miracle as “1. An extraordinary event manifesting divine intention in human affairs. 2. An extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing or accomplishment.”

 When I read these definitions, they sound amazingly out of reach, like something that happened in ancient times or something I would read about in Reader’s Digest or see on TV if I owned a TV.

 What do you think about when you read these definitions?

 When we think something will never happen in our lives, it’s tempting to stop playing, to step off the field and sit down on the sidelines.  But there is another way.

 For most of my life, I imagined that because of my birth trauma I would never feel athletic. I imagined that I would always feel extremely uncoordinated, inflexible and lack self-confidence.

 What things frustrate you about your life that you assume will never change?

 Based on these imaginings, I avoided all sorts of activities that might remind me and reveal to other people that I was uncoordinated and inflexible.

 I disabled myself when I chose not to fully participate in my life.

 Are there areas of life where you have chosen not to participate?

 I discovered one of my biggest abilities when I learned to participate in the miracles that were offered to me.

 The miracle of coordination, flexibility and self-confidence was offered to me in the form of yoga.  But to realize this miracle I had to participate in it class after class, month after month.  Yoga would have been just a funny word and signs I saw on the street if I never tried it.

 Have you participated in a miracle and, if so, what did it feel like?

Yoga wasn’t a one class, do a few downward dogs and few forward folds and I’m healed miracle for me. My faith in the value of yoga and my dedication to my yoga routine became a miracle.  This dedication may have been manifestations of divine intention in my life, because before yoga I was never much for consistently practicing something with joy.

 Game of the Day

 What miracle is being offered to you now and asking for your faith and participation?

The Abundance of Giving and Receiving

Wouldn’t birthdays be duller if we had to give each other the exact same thing?  In that world, we would sit down with each of our friends and family members at the beginning of each year and figure out the thing we were going to get each other.  Then when our friend’s birthday came, we would wrap the present out of tradition, but they would already know exactly what was in the box, how much it cost and where to buy it.  Then on our birthday, our friend would wrap our present, but we would already know what was in the box, how much it cost and where to buy it.

There would be a strict equality in this system and at the same time it would be utterly predictable and boring.  This system would lack much because birthday presents would become more of transaction than an experience of the joy of giving and receiving.

A huge part of the excitement of opening gifts is to be surprised, to not know what is in the box, to shake the box, to guess what’s in the box and then finally to open the box to see if your guesses were even close to the real deal.

The gifts we receive can be much more amazing than what we expected.  And the experience of giving a gift from a place of joy is one of the most rewarding experiences of being human.

Both giver and receiver are free.  The giver is free to give.  The receiver is free to receive.

The world of gift giving often doesn’t run as smoothly as it might because we are often uncomfortable receiving gifts or feel we have to give an equivalent gift in return.  As mothers and fathers know, gift giving is not equal.  They give their small children life and their small children give them scribbles to hang on the wall.

In our minds, we can go through our day appreciating the priceless nature of the gifts we give and receive.   Even in the checkout line at the grocery store, what we are giving the cashier goes beyond mere money.  We are giving our love and support to a complex system of producing and selling food that keeps countless people alive.  In return, we are getting the gift of groceries that we keep use alive.

You and I can start thinking about all the gifts we give and receive each day.    Many gifts will involve money, and many will not. Wealth as a giver and receiver of gifts may well be a wealth that is far more extravagant than having untold millions of dollars in some bank account.

Game Of The Day

Appreciate and celebrate all the gifts that you give and receive today.  Gifts can include time, money, support, love, beauty, food and much more. Be creative and think outside the usual boxes presents come in as you recognize the gifts that you give and receive.

Creating an Abundance of Space in Your Email Inbox

Has this ever happened to you?  You open your inbox and in one spot it says you have ten new messages.  Great!  That is manageable.

But in another spot where it keeps track of the total number of messages in your inbox, it says 1700 messages, 250

unread?

Your heart sinks and you feel as if you just opened the door of a packed closet and a bowling ball, toaster and a basketball trophy you won ten years ago all land on your head.

You’ve just had an attack of Undesired Inbox Chaos!

At the same time, you quickly scan through your new messages and start thinking about the messages you want to receive but didn’t receive.  Or you breathe a sigh of relief that you didn’t get a certain message, but then almost immediately start worrying that the next time you open your inbox that messages might be there.

You’ve just had an attack of Imagining The Future State Of Your Inbox Chaos!

Life looks a great deal like this much of the time doesn’t it?  For example, we want to enjoy the wonderful meal that we are eating with friends or family.  The moments of the meal are like our inbox. But suddenly we start thinking about happy or sad things from the past, and those messages flood our inbox.  And them we start thinking about either great things that could happen in the future or worrying about things we don’t want to happen in the future.   Suddenly, we are totally out of touch with the wonderful meal we are eating.  Our inbox is so full of things from the past and future that we can hardly taste the food that we are eating or savor the wonderful conversation that we are having.

Developing the skills to have our inbox clear so we can truly enjoy what we are doing at the present time takes practice.

Our email inbox is an unlikely but rewarding place to start this practice.  Everyday create a Present Moment Party In Your Inbox.  For ideas on how to begin this practice read the Game of The Day.

Game Of The Day

Every time you open your inbox, be aware of your expectations about emails you might receive.  Consciously tell yourself, “When I open my inbox, I’m excited to focus on the messages I discover there.”  While working on your inbox, whenever thoughts or expectations about future emails you might receive come up just repeat to yourself, “I’m excited to focus on the messages in my inbox at this moment.”

Now to the past emails in our inbox:  In the old days, there was an email party everyday in my inbox and a great many uninvited or unwanted guests would not only crash the party but would stay overnight.  To make matters worse, they might choose to camp out for many days or even months.  Now days I aim to politely ask uninvited guests to leave my inbox by deleting them on the same day I receive them.

1. Junk, newsletter type and community event emails:

If it is an email about an event of interest to you, mark it down on your calendar and print off the email so you have the details when you want them.

If it is an email of information that truly interests you, and you know you will read it in the next week, put it in an email file entitled “Exciting emails to read in the next week.”

On the other hand, if it’s an email that is of no value to you or if it’s an email that may contain some slightly useful information that you think you might maybe read someday just DELETE it.

2. Personal Emails:

Play the game of answering personal emails the same day.  You don’t have to spend hours composing an email.  Practice keeping your emails short and to the point.  At the same time, keep them warm and friendly.

If you are still thinking about how to respond to a particular email, just write a quick email thanking the person for sending the email.  Also, give the person a date to look for your more detailed email response.  Then put their email in a folder called “Fun Emails To Respond To.”  Also remember to keep track of the date you said you would respond on your calendar.

Once your email inbox is down to zero, CELEBRATE.

Repeat practice daily. Remember to have fun. Remember it’s an email party!

Note: Some days I succeed in getting my email inbox down to zero emails and some days I don’t.  Either way it is okay, because this is just a game.

Turn Practice Into Play

What are places in your life where you yearn to play but instead have chosen to be a spectator?

For many years I lived the life of a spectator, watching other people do activities I loved. I chose to be a spectator because I hated the idea of not looking perfect when I tried a new activity, but instead having to practice to get good at an activity.  It just did not seem fair.

In junior high, I would spend hours watching my friends play video games. Then in high school, I went All-Pro at watching other people play contact sports.  Whether it was live or on TV, I was sitting in the stands.  If medals were given out for being a spectator, I would have won the gold.

A key to living a creative and athletic life is finding what you love and practicing what you love.  I’ve found that there is excitement and joy in watching other people play.   But there is a whole different level of excitement and joy and responsibility in playing ourselves.

Practice gives us the skills and confidence to move from being spectators to being joyful participants in the areas of our lives that mean the most to us.  The act of playing builds skills and confidence that leads to greater abilities the next time you play.

It is ironic that I would be writing a blog post about the value and joy of practicing because as a kid I loathed the idea practicing as if it was a serious threat to my fundamental liberties as a child.

Practice was drudgery as a kid because I thought of it as a misery instead of approaching it with an attitude of play.  To any new activity, I brought impatience and a stubbornness that assumed I should understand how to do it on the first try and become a master at it after five tries.  I also conveniently assumed that I was somehow exempt from needing to follow directions as I practiced a new activity.

This charming kid, now thirty-six years old, luckily grew up and changed his attitude and now goes to yoga many times a week and sometimes even twice a day.

I changed from hating the very thought of practice to regarding practice as an integral part my life.

Here are some of the ideas I found over the years that can help transform practice from misery into play:

  1. Be gentle and loving with yourself- being playful is fun, while demanding perfection of oneself often creates misery.
  2. Smile as you play.
  3. Give yourself freedom; remember no one is forcing you to practice your chosen activity.
  4. Doing the activity the way it is designed is part of the game called practice.  The rules are not meant to take away your freedom, but to make the game exciting.
  5.  As opportunities arise, be creative and laugh during your practice time.
  6. Practice activities you enjoy and enjoy doing consistently.  As kids, when searching through the toy box we pulled out toys we liked.  As kids doing things we loved built character.  As adults doing things we love still builds character.

 I’ve found from years of personal experience that sitting on the bleachers for too long can bleach life out of us.  We yearn to practice at learning new skills.  Let’s play!

Game of the Day

What are places in your life where you yearn to play but instead have chosen to be a spectator?

What are activities that you can do practice playing in these areas?

I’d Rather Be Fishing

I grew up in the country near Sioux Falls, SD.  Eastern South Dakota has a good number of lakes that many people fish. I have never been much of a fisherman. Baiting sharp hooks and then sitting on the shore or in a boat waiting from a big one to bite always seemed too slow-paced for my tastes.  Fishing just seemed like sitting, waiting and doing nothing.  I just didn’t trust that fish I could not see would notice my bait and choose to swim over and take it.

But this morning as I look out my apartment window in San Diego, CA, I suddenly appreciate the wisdom of all the people who fish the lakes back where I’m from.

To be an expert at catching fish, it seems one would need a good pole, and the ability to find the right bait.  Once you have all of these elements, you cast your pole and wait.  Practicing these steps amount to doing the work of fishing.

There is no use in chasing fish with a baited hook no matter how tasty the bait might be.  Fish find being chased the very opposite of attractive.

With goals and expectations, it is sometimes tempting to fall into the pattern of chasing fish in our lives.  We get especially attached to certain “big ones:” the big job, the right spouse, the right house, so we chase.  It is quite a game.  It gets our hearts racing.  It works up a sweat.  We experience running a rat race, or a fish race in this case.  Ultimately, it is exhausting to chase fish and it most often does not produce the results we desire.

But there is another option.  We each can use a metaphorical fishing pole.  The pole is our values, beliefs, self-confidence, magnificence and love for life.

Our bait is our goals and intentions.  Taking the time to properly bait our hook is important. If our goal were to get a job as a chef, we wouldn’t bait our hook by sending our resume to car dealerships.  We would bait our hook by sending our resume to restaurants.

Then the trick is to wait with joy and confidence for the fish to bite.  The fish we hook may well surprise us.  For example, we may be on our way to drop our resume at a restaurant when we meet a high school friend we had lost touch with long ago, a high school friend who happens to manage a world-class restaurant and wants to hire us.  We are in awe because this is a position beyond what we ever dreamed of.

The work of fishing can be a full-time job as we work each day to create bait that is attractive to the things we need and want in life.

We have the options to stop chasing our fish and instead each morning bait our hook and cast it in to the lake of our lives.  Then we wait for fish to swim towards us.  True we do not know exactly what fish are going to be attracted to our bait.  But we may well catch more and bigger fish than we ever imagined.

Game of the Day

What big fish are you chasing on a daily basis?  What would it look like to attract big fish to you by fishing for them instead of chasing them?

Small Decisions

We can go through much of our lives following the credo, “No Pain, No Gain.”  Or we can choose to create joy in our lives whenever possible.  The difference between experiencing joy and experiencing pain can sometimes rest on the small decisions we make.  For example, I know that a small decision of mine greatly affected my experience walking a labyrinth.

About a year ago, I was walking an outdoor labyrinth in New Mexico with two friends.  The labyrinth was a series of circular pathways marked by stones on each side that led to a center.

Our purpose in walking the labyrinth was to enjoy a tranquil meditation, and to focus on the good we wanted to invite into our lives.

A labyrinth is not a maze, there is no way to get lost, but yet I did.  You see the friend who had walked this labyrinth before was leading and took her sandals off before she entered the labyrinth.

So being a good follower, I took my shoes off.  I realized within my first few steps that I was not walking on a soft surface like an ocean beach.  Instead it felt more like I was walking on sharp gravel with tacks mixed in.  This all amounted to a strong sense that I was treading on hot coals.

I noticed my friend who was leading walked a few steps into the labyrinth and then circled back and put on her sandals.  But I was determined to walk the labyrinth the way I thought I was supposed to walk it.

Wayne Dyer says in his forward to The Joy Factor by Susan Jones that, “When we fight anything, we become weaker, for in so doing we are violating the very principle of harmony and cooperation that holds the universe together.”

My goal in walking the labyrinth was to further open up to all the surprises life had in store for me.  Instead of obtaining this goal, I was suffering because I made the choice not to wear shoes to prove I was walking the labyrinth the right way.

I was thinking about this experience because I was out at Joshua Tree on a yoga retreat this weekend.  There was another labyrinth and our group walked it.  I kind of cringed when I saw it.  But this time as I walked, I left my Nikes securely laced and enjoyed a very pleasurable and meditative experience.

Wayne Dyer also observes in the forward to The Joy Factor that, “Everything we experience is a choice.  Our personalities are the result of the choices we make.”

Let us all make choices that bring us joy and leave our feet and our bodies happy.

Game of the Day

What is the next small decision you can make to bring more comfort, quality and joy into your life?

Our Magnificent Bodies

We know confidence is attractive to our spouse, our significant other, or, if we are single, to potential dating partners.  In The Joy Factor, Susan Smith Jones writes, “Living our best life means appreciating our magnificent bodies.”

Unfortunately for me and countless other men and woman this can be a daunting task.  We think of our physical bodies and too often instantly become experts in identifying our limitations.  We put ourselves through the wringer of self-critique and feel the exact opposite of attractive.

In Notes on the Need for Beauty, J. Ruth Gendler writes “Beauty [or handsomeness] becomes a forbidden quality because most of us feel it can’t belong to us…. often we are blocked from experiencing [our] beauty by feelings of shame and ugliness.”

Our minds interpret the bodies we see in the mirror.  This means we all could have the absolutely gorgeous bodies, but if our minds don’t allow us to be beautiful or handsome, we will never experience ourselves as beautiful or handsome.  Mirrors may not lie, but our minds definitely create interpretations of what we see in the mirror.

For years I looked in the mirror and interpreted what I saw as disability.  Just like I have a nose and ten fingers, it’s true that I’m less coordinated than many people and that my voice is at times harder to understand than the voices of most people.

But the concept that I was disabled and therefore less lovable had nothing to do with the reflection I was seeing in the mirror.  My “disability” had everything to do with a painful story I was making up in my head.  When I said I was disabled, I was authentically expressing a story in my head, but definitely not authentically “appreciating my magnificent body.”

The same can be said about ideal body weight.  There’s a multitude of websites having to do with ideal body weight.  We may be over or under the weight we are quoted on these sites.  This figure simply reflects how our body weight fits into the tables on the websites.  However, we sometimes use this figure to say we do not have magnificent bodies.  This assessment is a painful story created in our heads.

When I heard, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” I always interpreted this phrase as meaning I should look for a woman who would find me stunningly handsome and sexy.  So for most of my life I have been on an epic search for this woman.

What I overlooked is that I’m the initial beholder of my own beauty.  It is highly helpful to be able to recognize my own beauty first, so I can pass this recognition on to others through my ease and confidence.

How do we become powerful first beholders of our own beauty?  Maybe a place to begin is by consciously using exciting, invigorating and refreshing language to think and talk about our bodies. Whenever that old, familiar refrain of body image doubt enters your mind, say to yourself and to others, “I’m magnificent,” or “I’m amazingly beautiful” or “I’m incredibly handsome” or go for the gold and declare, “I’m Hot AND Sexy.”

This way of thinking and speaking may well feel uncomfortable and even embarrassing at first.  We have often been used to authentically expressing the painful stories about our bodies that we created in our heads.

For a change, why not try speaking in a way that you authentically appreciate your magnificent body.

You and I are our own first beholders.  We have the power to celebrate, honor and rejoice in the bodies we see in the mirror.

 Game of the Day

Whenever that old, familiar refrain of body image doubt enters your mind, say to yourself and to others, “I’m magnificent,” or “I’m amazingly beautiful” or “I’m incredibly handsome” or go for the gold and declare, “I’m Hot AND Sexy.”