Thursday, February 13, 2014


I've always been a fiercely independent type. I don't ask for help. I don't expect help. And if I can do it on my own, I'll usually at least try before I call a professional. 

But I've been getting soft in my old age. I'm accepting help when offered. I usually feel guilty about it, like I *should* be able to do it. Or paranoid that they're offering because I'm not holding up my end of some bargain. But even those thoughts are falling away.  

It snowed last night and today some anonymous person finished the shoveling job I abandoned because my arm and back were hurting and I felt I had done enough to get by. I asked the usual suspect, Ted, who sometimes cleans out my front gutters and even mows when I'm not looking. But he said it wasn't him. Then I saw some guy shoveling out a driveway that didn't belong to him up the road, but he said it wasn't him. So for now, my angel is anonymous. And it may stay that way. 

When I do "good deeds" I like to remain anonymous myself. I'm not doing it for the thanks. I'm doing it for the service and, selfishly, as I said the other day, for the good karma and flow of good deeds. Today was special for me, because I didn't feel guilty or paranoid and, in fact, was really grateful and glad that someone helped me out. I feel like I "deserved" it. That's a crappy way of putting it, but I felt like it was my turn, so I took it without feeling indebted. And guess what? It felt really good. And I bet that will open the flow for even more good deeds coming and going in the future. 

It's hard for me to be vulnerable, which is why it's hard for me to ask for help. You're probably thinking that I make myself vulnerable by all the stuff I talk about on my blog. And in a way, I do. I tell stuff on purpose to stretch those boundaries because I know I build my walls too high. As it is, I still keep a lot to myself, though.

But what I'm finding is that the more I open up and the more I accept help, the easier things are and the better I feel about myself. All those years of enforcing my walls and boundaries were harder physically, emotionally and socially...every which way. After all, wherever there's a wall, a flow is being restricted. Let the flow burst the dam and things start moving again. 

I've always seen allowing and accepting and being vulnerable as weaker choices. But how can they be weaker when it take so much energy to fight against them? How are you with making yourself vulnerable or accepting help? And if you're the opposite way, how are you with enforcing boundaries and offering help? 

I've found that there's a receiving in receive the gratitude and karma of helping another. And there's a giving in allow another person to be there for you. There's an art in either way, but I'm learning that we need to learn how to do each way graciously and without judgment to fully understand what the exchange is all about. I'm already seeing I'm a better giver for being a better receiver. And now I'm wondering where else that same thing can be applied in my life. The more I see peace and balance enter into my world as I get older, the more I want to continue cultivating it in the future. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2/12/14—Saying the Magic Word

Expanding on the thoughts I wrote about earlier in the week...about not taking things for granted and examining the things we focus on and those we don't to see where our priorities lie...I had another thought to add to the mix. 

I stopped by my local grocery store and heard the employees whispering about something. Apparently "he" was back and wasn't listening to what they said. Again. When I got to the checkout, I saw who they were talking about. A man was there asking for a receipt so he could return some things. He wasn't raising his voice or anything, but he was persistent. 

My checker told me he comes all the time and asks for a receipt so he can return things. But he doesn't have anything to return. And he didn't buy anything. She said when he doesn't find someone to talk to, he stands by the customer service counter and talks to himself. 

You could see it was really stressful for all the people who worked there and were being checked out. The man wouldn't let up. And he frequently changed languages when he was talking, so it was hard to understand him. They were being a lot more patient with him than I would have been. In fact, I found myself being less than compassionate because he was trying to take advantage of the store, and in a way that was making things difficult for everyone concerned. 

There are a lot of ways to get what you need. You can do it with honey. Or you can wear people down like water on rock. This man chose the latter and he wasn't starving, so clearly it worked for him. But it was hard work on his part, imo. In fact, I think even when done with honey, begging and being homeless is hard work. It might not be physically or intellectually demanding (though I suppose it could be) but the toll it takes on a person's emotions and spirit is a bigger price than I'd be willing to pay. 

I used to tutor recovering drug addicts (who lived homeless most of the time) in literacy and for their GED, so I have a little insight into how soul sucking that existence can be. When they were born they didn't say "I want to be a homeless crack addict when I grow up." It's a cumulative thing that happens as you make bad choices and then face worse and worse options in your life because of it. They're not proud of what it does to their families and what they've done to themselves. Most of them are so far gone they can't see a way out. These ladies I tutored were grateful for being legally compelled to get themselves clean. And even with that, at least one of them went back to the life. 

As a result, I find myself reaching inside my purse and helping random homeless people out from time to time. The way I see it, I'm tithing to the universe. "Tithing to the universe" is a practice I use to keep the flow of money going between me and the universe and also to help my karma. I give freely, without worry or judgment of what it's going to be used for. If I have money to give, I feel rich. If I can be generous, I feel even richer. And the richer I feel, the richer I am, because our thoughts create our reality. I don't always give to people in need, either. Sometimes I like to pay for the order behind me in the drive-thru or whatever. 

Anyway, I digress. Because even though that man was quite annoying to the people who work at the grocery store and even though he probably made a lot of customers uncomfortable, he gave me a gift—the gift of reminding me how grateful I am to be who I am, where I am today. I'm not mentally ill (at least not in a debilitating way...haha). I have a home and can afford heat. Everything is fully functional. I'm not hurting for anything. 

There are people out there with challenges we don't even understand. Something as simple as being sane and employed is a huge thing to give gratitude for. We focused some on where we live and the opportunities we do and don't avail ourselves of the other day, but how about going even more basic than that? When was the last time you consciously gave gratitude for a functional body, as achy as it might be? For a functional mind, as forgetful as it may be becoming? A warm home, though it might need a coat of paint? Or for your work, as crappy as it may sometimes be?

There's a term called "first-world problems" that refers to all the crap people of privilege complain about. Somewhere right in your neighborhood there's someone who would love to have your problems. Maybe their house is being foreclosed upon and their future is in question. Maybe someone inside is nursing a loved one as they lay dying. We often take for granted all the privileges we have, even when they're as basic as "breathing without help". 

Part of tithing to the universe or paying it forward or whatever you want to call the practice is giving gratitude for even the most basic of graces. Paying gratitude in advance is an even more powerful way of calling the universe to your side. I'll bet you could probably write 100 things you're grateful for in less than an hour. That right there is something to be grateful for! If you want to see your life magically brighten and bloom, just say the magic word more often—thanks. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

2/11/14—Branching Out

New Spirituality Internet Radio with 3 Muses and a Universe on BlogTalkRadio

Just a head's up that I've started doing an internet radio show with a couple of my friends. These are some very smart ladies who I've learned a lot from over the years. We'll be doing this at least monthly and I'll alert you to when new shows post or air. Listen to our first broadcast now!

Also, now that I'm blogging a few days a week, rather than every day, I may be posting guest blogs here to give you some different perspectives to consider on my days off. :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

2/10/14—Seeking Pure Air

I came across this video the other day and have been thinking about it ever since. The video contrasts the town with the cleanest air and water in the world (Cape Grim, Tasmania) and the town with the dirtiest air and water (Linfin, China). 

It's interesting from an ecological standpoint, yes. But that's not what caught my attention. What caught my attention is that the people who have the dirtiest air and water seem to spend more time outside being social and they don't seem to be overly concerned about what's going in their bodies. And a visit to the town with the cleanest air showed a nice, trim town with nobody milling about outside enjoying their clean air and water. 

Now, I'm sure the people in Tasmania spend time outside. How could they not? And I happen to know they leverage their clean air and water status because that's how I came across the video in the first place. But it all got me we appreciate what we have and where we live?

Because it sounds really impressive and dramatic when I say it this way, I'll say that I live in a world capital. In fact, Washington, DC is considered one of the most powerful cities in the world. We have some of the world's best museums. Iconic landmarks. And while we're not the biggest city in the US (we're actually #24) or the first US city international travelers want to visit (we don't even make the Top 10) on many levels, it's probably the most important city in our country to see if you're into history and world treasures (and almost everything from the National Zoo to all the Smithsonian museums is free to see.) (ETA: While not a top tourist city, the National Mall in DC is the #3 tourist attraction in the US.)

So how much of it have I seen? Most of it. Mostly when I was a child. In the past 20 years, a bunch of new museums have been built...the Holocaust Museum, the Newseum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center* and the National Museum of the American Indian, for example. I've seen just one of them. The American Indian one...a few times. While the rest sound interesting to me, I haven't gotten around to it.

Each year when the cherry blossoms bloom, I might do a drive by, but I don't stop. Similarly, I drive past iconic monuments and memorials all the time. Most of the time, I take the time to notice, but sometimes it doesn't even register. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate where I live. I do. Catching a glimpse of the Washington Monument from across the river can still take my breath away after nearly 40 years of living here. But I'm ashamed sometimes at how little I take advantage of the bounty in my midst.

So I've been thinking about what I do appreciate in my life and what I maybe don't appreciate enough. I consciously appreciate my little home and my doggies. And nap time. And my independence. Then there's my body, which I should consciously appreciate, but don't. 

When you really focus on all the different elements of your life and note what you consciously give gratitude, attention and appreciation to, it can point out where some of your priorities are off...where and how you're spending your time in alignment to what you want from life. 

Truth is, I could ask myself why I live in a city with so many cultural opportunities when I spend most of my effort seeking quiet spots with fabulous views. While this place feels like home to me, perhaps I should question what else makes it uniquely fulfilling to me. The same could be said for friendships, jobs, hobbies...any part of our lives. Maybe we're living with something that was once appropriate, but no longer is. Or maybe we're just not thinking.

So what's in plentiful supply all around you that you may not be availing yourself of? What might you be taking for granted? What "pure air" are you not breathing deeply in your life?

*Longest name ever for what's known as the Air and Space Annex, where the space shuttle Discovery calls home.