Habits

Every day we experience opportunities for growth in our lives. Some of the opportunities we may long for, while others we’d just as soon not encounter.

When we’re provided these choices, we have to decide whether to resist or accept them. A great deal of our harmony and peace of mind depends on which choice we make.

The more I think about this, the more obvious it becomes that every single thing that happens to me offers me something of value. At first, the item or event may not appear to be important. But, if I open and allow myself a moment of consideration, often rewarding things happen.

Here’s one seemingly insignificant example.

I brush my teeth twice a day. Once in the morning and once before I go to bed at night. You may do the same thing.

So, there I am in front of the medicine cabinet. I open it and reach for my toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, which has a flip top. Being a creature of habit, I hold the tube with the label facing me, then find I can’t flip the top open.

This bugs me. I don’t know why, it just does.

So, at least twice a day there is something in my life that is guaranteed to irritate and annoy me.

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking.

When I was a kid, I’d say, “Duh” and follow that with something obvious like, “so reach for the toothpaste and hold it with the label facing away from you (numbskull).”

Problem solved, right?

I have to wonder, what prevents me from executing this very simple solution? I’m pretty sure I know.

Habit.

Reinforcement of the same thing, day after day, until what I choose, becomes second nature to me.

But, is this helpful? Certainly, for me, not always.

My next question is, how many other things in my life are on this kind of auto-pilot?

My answer would have to be, a lot.

It’s fascinating to me that habits hide our power and become a substitute for conscious thought and decision making. Is the world too complicated for us to navigate, so we allow habits to take care of many things for us?

It makes me wonder.

Here’s another example.

Do I really listen to someone’s answer when I ask them, “How are you today” or is this just a habit? Not surprisingly, the answers we’re inclined to give to this question are often as habitual as the question itself.

What if I gave myself a chance to be present when they spoke? What sort of difference would that make in my world…and theirs?

I tested this out recently and discovered it makes a great deal of difference.

When I asked someone how they were, I looked directly at the person and stood still and waited for their answer. Most of the time, it took a minute for the person to realize I was actually waiting for them to respond. Often, they stopped, returned my gaze and appeared to consider their answer for a moment. When they got over their shock, they relaxed and said something about the way they felt, then stopped speaking and looked expectantly in my direction. I took in what they’d said and responded, saying something that I hoped made it obvious I’d heard them and that what they said mattered to me.

Amazingly, when I remembered to do this, I found we formed a real connection. I felt a spark and that felt good to me. And, it made me want to continue exploring other habits of mine and seeing what benefits I might be able to find.

If you do some exploring of your own, please let me know what you discover.

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Kindness

Here’s an opportunity to try something new. To open a door in your world and see where it leads. What beautiful shift might occur in your outlook if you allowed yourself some freedom. Freedom to explore some new spiritual practices. Ones that appeal to you and offer hope and excitement and a sense of connection, perhaps to an inner part of you or perhaps to what you think of when you hear the word, ‘divine’.

Ready? I’m going to assume that you said ‘yes’, and I’ll keep going.

Although there are literally hundreds of directions we could go, let’s take just one step and see what happens.

Spiritual practices offer us every possible direction, so we can go inside or stay outside. For this exercise, let’s do both at the same time.

It will be fun. I promise.

So here it is…spend a little time and create an “intentional act of kindness plan” for the next seven days. I say, “intentional”, rather than the more common term of “random”, because I believe the creation of a plan IS “intentional”. You’re doing it “on purpose”, not with a specific idea of how it will turn out, but because you want to be present and somewhat purposeful.

I’m going to suggest that you start out with creating ideas. What acts of kindness come to your mind. Just let them pop into your head and write down a bunch of ideas that appeal to you. Once you have them captured, say each one out loud and see which ones your heart is drawn to.  Make a list of 3-5 ideas (or more) that you want to put into practice during this week.

Once you have your list, imagine what you need in order to perform these acts of “intentional kindness”. Remember that they can cost you nothing or something. That part is entirely up to you.

How are you going to create some magic for someone else? Who will it be? When will you do these things? Plan it out a bit, but not too much. This isn’t intended to be a chore for you. It’s not another “to do” item, but rather an overflowing from the joy that lives inside of you, now and what is to come.

Okay, so now you have your plan.

One more thing. I’m going to suggest that you perform some acts of kindness anonymously and some where the person you’re doing this for knows that it is you. I’m very curious to know if that changes anything about the experience for you, so I’m going to ask you, if you are willing, to record your feelings about each one of the “intentional acts” you perform. That’s really a big part of this exercise.

That ought to be enough to get you started.

I would like to share with you that for my sixty-third birthday I performed 63 intentional acts of kindness. It was an amazing adventure. I learned so much about myself throughout the process, which actually took me all month to complete.

I was constantly surprised, amused and overjoyed by my experience. I found deep connections are always within reach, as long as I was willing to take one simple step.

I wish you well on this journey and would love to hear whatever you care to share.

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Balance

During the past year I’ve fallen a few times. I know the medical community regards this as a possible indicator of potential problems which should be investigated. But, I think I know the cause.

My feet. They don’t seem to rest firmly and flatly on the ground. My podiatrist says I have neuromas, which is another way of saying that there are nerves running down my feet and between my toes that are irritated and make it hard for me to feel things. And, if I can’t feel or sense with my feet, it’s hard to remain balanced.

Part of me wanted this condition to take care of itself, you know, some kind of magical resolution where I didn’t have to do anything other than wish it so. It didn’t happen. I gave it a pretty good shot, perhaps even a few years.

Sometimes it’s hard to be this honest with myself. And now I’m repeating it to you, which feels both embarrassing and freeing at the same time.

Recently, I told myself enough was enough. I started doing my own balance exercises. Simple. Just pick up one foot and try to balance for as long as I could. I consider my first try to be an epic failure. I could only stay upright for the count of 8, before I tipped over. So sad.

I knew I needed to keep at it, so I practiced every day. Within three weeks I was able to balance for a count of 30 on each foot. Another two weeks went by and the count went to 50, then 75. After another two weeks…90.

Along the way, I realized several things. First, it mattered what I thought would happen. Second, it was considerably easier to maintain my balance when I chose a single point in the distance to focus on. And third, I realized that it would require practice.

Perhaps you remember a child’s toy from years ago. Surprisingly, it’s still around. It’s called a Weeble. They were little people and sort of egg shaped and no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t knock them over. The company’s catchy slogan ran like this, “Weebles wooble, but they don’t fall down”.

I want to be a Weeble.

Sometimes I think to myself how nice it would be to experience my life without falling down or being knocked over. But, that’s not what happens to me. And, I’m guessing it might not be what happens to you.

So, how to stay in balance? Or the companion question, how to regain balance once you’ve been pushed off center?

Many energy healers believe there is a column of light that runs from inside the earth, upwards through the center line of our body and out of the top of our head, connecting all the way to our source (or whatever name we use for god). They call this the ‘hara line’. There is a strong belief that the hara line vibrates with our intentions and contains our life purpose and reason for being here on earth as spiritual beings.

Imagine for a moment that you accepted this as the truth, or at least, part of the truth.

It certainly might explain why it feels so uncomfortable when we are forced out of balance, whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. It also might help us understand that as our balance is disturbed, we’re unable to sense the same strength of connection with our life purpose.

Being out of alignment could then turn out to be a powerful message to us, encouraging us to take steps to regain our balance.

There’s so much more to say, so I’m going to do something a little different with this post. I’m going to leave it as a cliff hanger and promise to finish my thoughts about this on my next post (Post #7 on Sunday). I hope you’ll join me.

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Joyful

Do you know the TV and magazine ads that promise to help you deal with physical issues you might be experiencing? No matter what problem you have, there’s a drug or treatment that offers you help in managing your symptoms or condition. I’m very glad that this type of assistance exists and it’s wonderful to know that when you need support, it’s available to you.

The last time I saw one of these ads I wondered, is there some kind of pill or treatment for ‘conditional happiness’?

You may be wondering what this is.

Here are some of the symptoms. Do you create certain criteria that must be met BEFORE you can be happy? A list of items to check off, otherwise you think happiness can’t be experienced. Do you find yourself feeling happy and then wonder how long it can possibly last? And then, sure enough, it falls away. Do you wonder how it is even conceivable to be happy, given the state of the world? You want to be happy, but you feel so much stands in your way.

I’d like to propose a radical idea for you to consider.

What if we shifted our perspective? What if we all were designed to be happy? Suppose your core nature contained everything you need to be happy, and that buried deep within you, there is a place of perfect peace. A place you can draw from any time you need or want to.

While I’m thinking about this, I’m considering my choice of words. Maybe ‘happiness’ isn’t the right word. Perhaps, ‘contentment’ would be better. No, contentment feels limited, sort of like settling for something.

How about ‘joyful’? Yes, I like that word. I like opening it up to see that it means, filled with joy. What an awesome concept. I want to be filled with joy.

So, let me start over.

What if we all were full of joy by design? What if we came here to this earth with the capacity to feel joy no matter what we encountered. What if we believed that joy was our very nature. I love the way that feels.

Is this possible for you to conceive? I hope so.

Imagine what the world would be like if we believed that joy is a fundamental part of us, centered deep within each of us.

How would this change things?

Ahhhh, isn’t that the real question?

One important thought comes to me. If I truly believed that I am filled with joy, and that it is always accessible to me, I could see things from a very different perspective. I could allow joy to flow through me and embrace it with delight.

On seeing a person by the side of the road asking for money because they are homeless, I could open my heart and spirit and let my joy overflow. I could open my window and share from my abundance and watch as my joy spread into another person’s world.

I could look around and see the beautiful turn of colors in the leaves. I could get lost in the aroma of fresh baked cookies coming out of the oven. I could glory in the connection with others who share this world with me, like you. I could reveal joy wherever I looked.

Rather than living according to what I see outside of me, I could live from my center of joy. What a wonderful choice to have.