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The Power of a Smile

Walking home from the gym I passed a very old man in a wheelchair who was sitting next to his care giver outside a local coffee shop.  As I walked by he said, “Hello, gorgeous!” I turned around and replied, “Well hello to you sweetheart.” “Come back over here and say that to my face,” the old man said smiling from ear to ear. 

I bent down, taking his hand in mine and said, “How are you today, sir?” “Just wonderful, and you?” “My day was great but it is even more wonderful thanks to you,” I replied.  He smiled even bigger and winked at me. 

As I walked away I passed a group of women who were walking in his direction. I heard the old man say, “Well hello there lovely ladies.” They were smiling as they stopped to say hello to the old man. 

What a sweet encounter and a great reminded how powerful a smile and a kind word are to brighten someone’s day.

Tough Love

One of the most challenging things about caring for others is accepting we CANNOT control or change anyone else but ourselves.  Our adult child is being abused in relationship, or faces jail time, or is hooked on drugs, or cannot keep a job, relationship, etc.  Yes, these things are hard to witness. And no, we cannot make their choices or live their life for them.

Each of us has our own journey in life. That means when we reach adulthood and we stumble we must choose to pick ourselves up. We cannot do that if someone is there to soften our fall or always pick us up. We do not learn, grow and make positive permanent changes if other people try to do our work for us.

It’s not easy to watch those we care for collapse under the weight of their negative choices. Sometimes we witness this over and over again. But we cannot “fix” someone. Unless that person wants to fix him/herself, our words will fall on deaf ears and a closed heart. 

What we can do is set boundaries to bring a higher level of awareness to the relationship we have with those who are hurting themselves and others.  We can focus our energy on staying centered and balanced so when the people we love decide to pick themselves up and change we are there to offer support. That is why it is called “tough love.” Yes, it is hard and yes, it is still love. 

Yes, You Can

Have you noticed when we tell ourselves we “can’t” do something it actually means we don’t want to? Deep down we know we need to leave an abusive relationship, or master ourselves to say in control of our behavior, or to set boundaries out of love for ourselves. Yes, we can do these things but by saying “I can’t” we actually mean we are afraid to take the actions necessary. We are fearful because we are familiar with our current situation, no matter how bad it is. It has become uncomfortably comfortable. We don’t want to change because we are frightened of how the situation will be if we actually go through by taking the action we know we must.

The absurdity of believing the ego-motivated fear “I can’t” is that we are intentionally preventing ourselves from creating the life we say we want. The actions we are fearful of taking are the exact ones that will end our suffering.

Yes, it takes courage, determination and faith. Yes, we must love ourselves more than we fear the unknown. Yet the hard truth is, we must earn our freedom from suffering and fear because a happy, peaceful and fulfilled life does not just happen. We must intentionally create it. We start the moment we stop telling ourselves “I can’t” and began the self-support of “Yes I can and I WILL find a way.”

Trust Behavior Over Words

One of the most important things I learned is that love is not blind. People showed me exactly who they were. Too often I preferred to see who I wanted them to be rather than who they really were, even when they continued to show me the worst of themselves.

Part of loving me was learning to see people’s behavior for the truth of what it really was rather than the fantasy I was creating and clinging to in the name of love. The first step was learning to see my behavior for what it really is too.

Challenges are Opportunities

Within the first six months of 2001 I had lost my job, my home, my relationship, and the city where I had lived for almost 20 years.  Almost everything I identified with or cared about was taken from me.  This experience taught me that often it takes our being knocked down by life’s challenges for us to recognize there are changes we need to make.

Nothing we experience in life is without purpose. Each trial and tribulation presents an opportunity for us to learn how to be better people and how to do life better. I learned it is choosing to view the challenges of life as opportunities to grow, rather than viewing ourselves as a victim, that leads to our blossoming.

Look for the Truth

Growing up in the Southern part of the United States I was told, “People who live in California are weird.”  I moved to Los Angeles ten years ago this coming January and it is not at all what I was told it was.  Like most things in life we only get someone’s biased point of view when they give their opinion.  It takes real experience for us to know the truth. That is why I make it a point of knowing as many of my neighbors as possible.

We live together in the second largest city in the United States so we live close to one another.  In my neighborhood there are several apartment complexes along with single family housing. We have business owners with shops around the corner. There are several schools so there are lots of children. We are every color, nationality, religion, and for the most part, we live peacefully side by side.  So I want to get to know them as a part of my neighborhood family.

It is important to feel that connection with one another so we watch out for each other. We take care of one another. We appreciate and respect one another.  My life is so much better because I know my neighbors.  They are wonderful testaments to the peaceful, kind, and compassionate world we are creating. I feel blessed to live where I do.

I am also blessed to have learned that simply because someone believes something does not make it fact. People in California are not weird at all.  Just look at what I would have missed had I believed what I was told growing up. I am so glad to have a rebellious streak – at least when it comes to finding out truth for myself.

The Healing Power of our Natural World

During the period in my life when I suffered with depression I kept myself separate from the outside world. Day after day I plodded along doing what I must to survive while on the inside I was totally consumed with my suffering. I was completely focused on how lonely, sad and miserable I was.

One day I got tired of the drama and went for a long walk around a lake at a National Forest. Immersing myself in nature allowed something within me to shift. Completely surrounded by beauty and the wonders of life for the entire day I hardly thought about my suffering, my aloneness, my depression.

While that one outing did not cure my depression it did open the door to what actions I could take to make myself feel better.  Every day I continued to enter into the natural world.  With each outing I felt freer and more connected to all that is alive.  Simply watching a mother duck and her babies, or a dragonfly, or the sunlight dancing on the lake brought me happiness.  It was a very good start and a wonderfully positive habit that I maintain today.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if all we concentrate on is instant gratification, technology, negativity, and our loneliness. It’s easy to collapse into ourselves, our problems, and the negativity. Simply taking time to sit in nature is often just what we need to open the door to allow light into the darkness so we remember there is a way out.

Living Aligned with Love

I am often asked if I ever get angry. You bet. Today someone forwarded an email to me that was hate-filled and judgmental. It was one of those things you see passed around the internet with photos of certain groups of people with sickening, ignorant and disparaging comments. It made me want to scream for two main reasons.

First, the person who sent this did so without thinking that by forwarding this type trash she is actually condoning the message.  If she stopped to feel what it is like to be the people who were the subject of the photo essay she would be appalled with her behavior. Second, there is absolutely nothing positive that is gained from spreading stereotypical condemnations of anyone.  It’s not innocent or funny or cute. Spreading these type immature and unconscious vilifications actually supports the continuance of ignorance and divisiveness.

Ladies and gentlemen we CANNOT create our best life if we do not think before we act. We must ask ourselves how it will feel to be on the receiving end of our behavior, even if that is forwarding an email. We must have the heart to put ourselves in the position of other people. So what if someone is not like us. Thank goodness we have been, by Divine design, made as individuals unlike anyone else on earth.  What we do share is a heart that is connected to each other so we can feel what we each feel.

It is time you and I stop allowing those within our intimate circles to believe it is okay to send us these type messages.  We must set a boundary, not to change the unconscious and unfeeling, but to change us so we lead with our heart to support our fellow human being’s differences rather than blind prejudice. We must treat others as we want to be treated and be the example of how to create our best life by living aligned with love.

Yes I did set a boundary. Yes I was kind when I clearly and directly asked that she never send me anything like that again. No, I am no longer angry.

Love Yourself First to Love Others Well

Growing up I was taught I had to love God and other people first.  But no one ever told me what that actually looked like.  No one ever answered my question, “How can I love something or someone else if I do not love me?”  Even as a child that logic did not feel right – it simply did not make sense that I could give what was not within me first to give. And, what does love mean anyway when it seemed to be more about control, judgment, telling me how I was wrong, and ridicule.

One day I realized that what I had been taught to believe was not actually possible.  Love is positive behavior like compassion, forgiveness, patience, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, etc. So unless I was compassionate with myself first it was not possible to be compassionate with others. The same is true for all the behaviors of love. I came to the realization loving had to begin with me because unless I loved myself it was impossible to give love to anything or anyone else. I would only be going through the motions but without genuine emotional and spiritual connectedness to the feelings. That is when I realized loving me first is not selfish but spiritually responsible. I came to this heart-awareness by having courage to question what I was taught to believe about myself, others and the world.  Today I believe God is love. So by loving myself first I am being love and that to me is what loving God looks like.

One of the most important spiritual realizations is accepting that because you are taught to believe something does not make it true. And because you are taught not to believe something does not make if false. Lead with your higher wisdom and take charge of questioning beliefs that do not align with the positive, loving, inclusive behaviors of your heart because often it is changing your view that changes you.

The Upside Of Jealousy

At one time in life I was jealous of other people’s good fortune, physical appearance, career, home, car, mate, etc. It seemed I was always finding something to envy in

other people. But jealously made me feel horrible and did nothing to create my happy and fulfilled life. So, one day I intentionally sat down to bravely look my jealousy in the eye.

By taking time to ask why I was envious I realized I was not honestly upset that someone had more money, a better job, a bigger house, or a better car.  I was disappointed in myself for not responsibly spending the money I made. Likewise, I was not envious that other people were more physically attractive. I was upset because I did not value myself enough to appreciate and take the best care of my body.  Also, I was not really jealous of another person’s partner. I was upset because I did not know myself well enough to attract another person with the positive values I wanted in a lasting relationship.

Today I am grateful I had the courage to honestly look at the motivations behind my envy. I learned jealousy is the perfect mirror in which to find a reflection of what I need to look at within myself.