Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and All That Jazz.....

I absolutely love Christmas music of any kind.  I like to listen to it and sing with it.  It's the one time of year I actually look forward to piped-in music in stores and offices.  There is something about it that uplifts me, fills me with joy and reminds me of the spirit of the season. 

This time of year, I pause long enough to find myself engaged in conversations with total strangers; genuinely caring about how they are and what they are saying.  There is an added courtesy extended to each other and a revival of thoughtfulness that was once forgotten.  Why is it, that only one month a year has such added joy and kindness? 

Imagine for a moment an entire year of Decembers:  A year filled with generosity of the heart, thoughtfulness of action, kindness of words, and caring for others. What would happen if we had an entire year where we light candles and share a meal?   Or, what if we gathered together to share stories and laughter regularly?  I'm guessing our hearts would be fuller and our focus would shift from "doing" to "being": being still, being present, being kind, being together, being in love.  If you spent less time doing and more time being for this coming year, what is one thing that you would want to "be" more of?

I fall in love every December.  It is a time that I fall deeply in love with my family, my friends and even strangers.  I feel a kinship with humankind that is truly remarkable.  This is a time that I feel such gratitude for all those who share this journey with me and for all those who travel a different road.  I truly believe that we are all more alike then we are different; alike in our needs, our dreams our fears.  If you believed that we all share fears and dreams, what is one fear that you would like to have the courage to walk through this coming year?  Say it outloud.  Now, what dream could come true in your life if you walked through that fear? 

As I sit back tonight and look about, the tree is glowing, candles are burning, presents are wrapped.  We shared a meal together and even shared in the making of pie, chocolate dipping of pretzels and breaking of candy canes to mix with white chocolate. 

Yes, I fall in love this time of year, and, no matter what the struggle was the day before, the night before, the week before or even the month before, it can wait now. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autumn: The Season of Letting-Go

Fall is known as the season of “letting-go.” As the trees yearn to let go of their past and prepare to go inward for a time of rest, reflection and growth, so does the human spirit.

One morning recently, with a somewhat heavy heart, I was walking down the street toward my office. Over the course of seconds the following occurred:

My mind paused and took in my surroundings: baring trees with remaining leaves of green and gold; crisp air, fresh, cool scent, crystal blue sky. This was a truly beautiful morning (even if you’re not crazy about the cold). I double checked my mood, which, up until that awareness, was lower than mid-point. Since I like to live at a “mood gauge” that registers higher than mid-point, below mid-point is low for me and can begin to immobilize me quickly. Teaching to others that we have the power to take action at any moment to change our awareness and experience, I made a conscious choice to heed my teachings and take my next steps into, what I refer to as, “my power of choice and dignity.” With my next foot step, I said, semi out-loud, “I choose to live in a way that allows my magnificence (yes, we are all magnificent) and god-given gifts to bring wellness, joy and laughter into my life and the lives of my family and all others that I touch directly and indirectly.”

Miraculously, my heart soared; my soul felt lighter; a smile crossed my face and I suddenly felt more empowered to give and receive the most that I could from the day. What happened next is, for me, a bit of “God’s Grace.” A person was walking toward me, and what is typically a silent world of passerby’s, this man, with direct eye contact and a full broad smile of his own, said joyfully, “Good morning. You are gorgeous!” I knew, at that moment, I was gorgeous, from the inside out. As we crossed paths, headed in opposite directions, I responded with a clear and confident, “Thank you so much. I truly appreciate your compliment.”

We have the ability to shift our experience at any moment by changing the thoughts we entertain. As I shifted my thoughts, I was fortunate to receive an immediate affirmation that I was headed in the right direction. Although I might not always receive such immediate external rewards and acknowledgment, I always feel more uplifted inside when I am thinking thoughts that are empowering, not draining.

In this fall season, spiritually referred to as a time of “letting-go,” why not make a commitment to let–go of self-limiting thoughts and stories that drain your energy, bring sadness into your heart and keep you from living a life that is magnificent.  Working with support, whether with a trusted friend, mentor, or a Professional Coach, you can make a lasting shift into Better Living by increasing your wellness through greater joy, laughter or whatever you choose as your goal. 

Ask yourself this, "What is one step that I can take right now to bring more joy and Better Living into my life?" Write it down.  Read it again.  Take a deep breath.  Now take your first step.  You deserve it! You are magnificent!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Enlightenment in Greece

If, as A Course in Miracles, states, "the surest signs of enlightenment are joy and laughter" then being in Greece has brought us closer to enlightenment. We are reminded by a reading for the day, that, if we cannot laugh about something, we are not yet healed from that experience. In Greece, our stories and laughter flow like Ouzo; clear, crisp, abundantly and easily. Any old wounds that we carried here must be healing.

While this post is a reflection of yesterday's events, I would be remiss to not immediately share this mornings highlight; breakfast with Rick Steves. (Well, perhaps not at the same table.) Ginny fell immediately into "groupie" fashion as she began to giggle with delight at meeting face to face one of her true "Idols," the "God" of Travel. (We are in the land of Gods.) As I pushed her gently off the setee to obtain his autograph, I noted that he held true to his book and was in fact staying at one his suggested accomodations. For a moment I exit the present and wonder, "What destination will Rick guide us to next?"

Yesterday was filled with another delightful breakfast. Clearly when your hotel feeds you so satisfyingly, why would we go anywhere else. Besides, it is difficult to journey about without a morning cup of coffee. In this case, I found out that our hotel Carbonaki serves "Turkish" coffee, and it is by far the best coffee I have ever had!

We began our day by walking through town and ventured into the "Old Venice" area, where old windmills decorate the landscape. I am mesmerized by the crashing waves against the foundations of the buildings. The practical side of my brain wonders what the maintenance must be like for one of those buildings. Ginny comments that the constant sounds would become overwhelming and exhausting. Here, the force of mother nature never sleeps.

We meander (yes, I use this word often as it accurately depicts the narrow walkways between the buildings that we follow) the walkways . Small cars come through on occassion and I am forced to watch breathlessly for fear that even my breath will cause them to shift enough to scrape the building walls. We head to the town center where we chat with the local "honey" man as we wait for a bus to take us to Ag Ioannis through the quaint little village of Ornos. I am certain that God is traveling with us, as the bus did not fall off the cliffs. It is remarkable the ease with which the drivers manage the journey.

The sea at Ioannis is crystal blue. No matter which direction you focus your eyes, natural beauty abounds. After another delicious meal, this time at Hippie Fish, the location of a movie I am told is a must see, "Shirley Valentine," and a swim, I nap drunkenly on one of the lounge chairs that scatter the beach. Ginny is forced to wake me to return to our town.

Back at the hotel, she naps while I continue to practice painting the white on white hues of the houses. This struggle might lead me to attending an art class. Depciting the multiple shades of white to distinguish the houses that fill the cliffside is easy with my eye; not so with my paintbrush.

Dinner is selected by mistake (one "K" looked like another "K" to me.) It is a result of our first retaurant choice being busy, our stomachs being loud, and a series confusing pathways. Although the setting was picturesque (a great setting for a wedding reception with its large white on white space, flowing white drapery and large beautifully shaped white tables, it was our first disappointing meal. The Baklava that I set out to find afterward, helped ease the wound of a not so good meal.

Afterward, we strolled back through Old Venice looking at store fronts, watching the sea, and listenning to the music of each passing eatery until it was "late" enough to attempt dancing at Jackie O's. Unfortunately for us, half past midnight was still not late enough to find the crowd dancing. Reluctantly, we surrendered to the demands of our bodies and returned to our rooms for rest. One minor Greek flaw is that the mattresses here are more like cots. Fortunately, I am a "back sleeper." Ginny has become a "back sleeper" after the numbness of her hip was more uncomfortable then changing sleeping positions.

If the path of enlightenment is "paved with play and celebration", we are walking in the right direction.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Athens to Mykonos...the joy is in the journey

I remind myself daily that the "joy is in the journey." When the journey is anywhere in Greece, it truly is easier to be joyful! As the day is ending, I thought that the name of the blog should be, "I wouldn't change a thing." (At least so far.)

Our days in Athens were perfect. Certainly we could have done much more: finish exploring the Ancient Agora, head to the moutaintop to see the famous "church on the hill," or dine at another restaurant on the steps. Yet, there is something satisfying about leaving a place wanting more.

We ate mindfully once again upon "our" (yes, very possessive) rooftop, again savoring the greek yogurt with drizzeled honey and fruit. Ginny wrote as I attempted my hand at my art work. I actually referred to myself as an amateur artist, thinking that this is a beginning of something more. As I try to regain the parts of my brain that have gone dormant, I explore the detail of the past months in my mind wondering why so long has past since my last attempts. All I know at this moment is that I am having difficulty painting distinguishing shades of white. (I wish Chris werer here to coach me through this stuck point.)

Our driver was prompt and we left the hotel as scheduled. (And yes, much to the surprise of those who know me at all, I too was packed and on-time.!) We headed through the busy streets of Athens, busier as a result of the metro strike. We are glad we splurged for the private taxi dirver. Our ferry was much larger than expected, but gratefully so as we hit the swelling Aegean sea waves. First stop, Syros. We arrived at Mykonos four hours after leaving Athens. The time passes quickly as you watch the changing waters and each island that you pass. We didn't even finish our game of backgammon. Thanks to Alice, I have my trusted backgammon game to carry with me. I am still waiting to find a weathered 80 year old man to play with me and tell me tales as we do.

It is easy to find a cab after departing the ferry. We settle into the Carbonaki hotel just a short while later. Our hotel is calming in its multiple shades of white with splashes of blue. It is filled with elegant seating areas that call to you to just be still. We are still, for a moment. Then llaughter fills our space and we are on to the next moment.

The white on white on white is everywhere. The streets, buildings, walkways, ceilings. There are no cars as we stroll along the narrow alley ways between the two and three story buildings with tterraces and flowers, shops and eateries. We had hoped for lunch yet dinner was the next meal since the timing of the day had past. Dinner was at the Appolosa, an excellent recommendation by Panos from the hotel. We shared feta cheese that has never tasted as good anywhere else! After dining, we met people as we strolled in the shops, filling their stores with our llaughter, as they too joined in.

The scenery of our journey will be marked by photographs; my heart will remember the journey by its laughter.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dancing Under the Parthenon After Midnight......

was the ending of a long day. Saying "yes" to all life offers is the beginning.

How many of us go through life wanting and waiting for happiness to fall upon us, as if Glinda will wave her majic wand and grant our wish. I sometimes refer to this phenomana as "living my life on pause." Sometimes pausing is a good thing; it allows our soul to rest and our spirit to gather clarity on "what next." Waiting to live life on the other hand is tragic. What if this is our last moment on earth.

For me, I ask each morning that I live my life with intention and choice, standing in my dignity and grace (which, I often fall short of). I want to live so that I allow my magnificience and "god" given gifts to bring wellness, joy and laughter into my life, my children's lives, the lives of my family, and to all others that I touch directly and indirectly. As I go through the streets of Athens, we laugh heartily as I politely say "no thank-you" to each peddlar who approaches. How can I not. I speak to the strangers who approach me as if they are offering a gift, not soliciting my wallet.

Today was another day filled with "awe" as I exhaled deep sighs at almost every turn. I shook my head in disbelief. Morning breakfast of greek yogurt and can peaches with drizzled honey touched my tastebuds as if it were my first meal. I savored it as if it might be my last. Every bite was witnessed by the greatness of the Acropolis.

We began the day walking along Adriano to enter into the path to the Acropolis. Our tour was proudly led by Ginny with her trusted companion "Rick" (as in Rick Steves). We wondered through onto Mars Hill (what has been the center of Athens since reported time - 680 BC - the buildings were constructed in 450 BC)) to walk in the footsteps of St. Paul and through the Beule Gate into the Propylae. Yes, here, the world could be ruled. As we circled around the Acropolis we learned stories of architectual genius, devotion to the Gods, the heartache of destruction that mankind can leave in its path and how one woman, Athenia, Goddess of Wisdom, could inspire a civilization. One of my favorite sites, the ladies as I refer to them as, Caryatids, stood tall and graceful and in their dedication and devotion could carry the weight of the Erechtheion. We walked and walked and laughed and laughed.

We paused for lunch upon another rooftop, dining on a traditional greek salad before transitioning from one world to the next. As we returned to the present archtecture of the Acropolis Museum, with its glass floors, that allowed us to witness the excavation that continues to uncover our past, we stood within a breaths distance from a world that I can't fully comprehend. Again I am reminded of how the conflict between men permeates all that we see. Many of the statues of the Pediment (the triangular peek of the Parthenon) had been carried away by conquerors and the greedy English. What was displayed, however, was enough to appeciate the full grandeur of a building that took less than 10 years to complete and was done by paid laborers.

At the end of this, every cell craves a cup of good greek coffee sitting on the Plaka, side by side, to people watch. After hours of strolling and shopping we return to our room. After a quick shower and change we return to the steps of the Plaka to dine on yet another rooftop just feet below the Parthenon walls. How quickly we find ourselves on "Greek" time, dining at 10pm on fried cheese and Mousaka. Our exhaustion is expressed by actually asking our waiter, "What is the name of this restaurant?" Fortunately, it actually was the Psaras, the one we set out to find.

One would think that returning to our hotel and collapsing at midnight would be in order. While Ginny fell asleep (except to be awoken by my inability to open the door), my second wind allowed me to pack (so that I could write this post), sketch, read about our next destination and say goodnight to our rooftop view. All I can say is I ended the day dancing under the light of the Parthenon after midnight.......

Saturday, September 24, 2011


There aren't words sufficient to capture the feeling, and express it clearly, of this moment.....the moment of being in Greece, sitting on a rooftop at midnight while viewing the Acropolis in what remains of its full magnificient force, which is to the front of me. To my right is the Stoa of Attalos, and to my left, Lycabettus theatre. All three are lit up, as if to shine light on my insignificance in this world, while shouting boldly that their grandeur has existed for some 3000 years. I wonder if I am moved to tears from my lack of sleep or truly from the feelings of being "in awe." Athens is everything I anticipated and so much more.

The day has been spectacular. I arrived here with my dear friend Ginny after a fitful night of attempting to sleep spread out over two seats. Our laughter has filled every space that we have occupied: from the car ride into JFK with her dedicated driver, a/k/a husband Ed; the ease of lines through the airport; the delivery of a ribbon-tied chocolate bar to "bribe" the check in host at the airport for a better seat (only to end up in the rear of the plane escaping from the single child on the plane); the airplane ride (where we had all our neighbors laughing and I incredibly met an old friend just seconds after saying, "I wonder which one of us will run into someone they know"); to the pick-up by our driver "John; and right up to this rooftop moment when I was wanting to play backgammon! We have laughed at everything, in joy and in exhaustion. Laughter is truly the best medicine of life. (Well, just after being in Greece). If one could measure days in perfection, today was perfect. (Of course my feet have yet to register their vote.)

After looking at the vastness of the area we covered by foot, I am convinced that we walked further today then I have ever done in a day before. At every turn another "ancient ruin" is before you, mixed in with the sidewalk cafes, street vendors and restaurants on the steps. This is a city that doesn't seem to stop. Unlike all that I had read about Athens, I could stay here for days just walking in wonder.

Today we used almost every moment physically possible (yes, a siesta was in order - especially when I thought I would physically tip over from exhaustion). Ginny played tour guide as we walked through the ruins of Ancient Agora, ate lunch on the walkway of Adrianou, strolled through the carless cobblestone streets that meander around the Acropolis, witnessed the gathering of a wedding and dined on the Platka.

The energy here is joyful, uplifting, and lively. People kiss each other here the same way we greet someone with a hello. I am in love.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The hardest task I find is...

The hardest task that I am finding to do is....being a human. Yes, that's correct, being human. I have decided I am not so fond of that part of living. It is the part that is fraught with human error, complex emotional states, feelings that can drive our actions in undesired ways, and thoughts that are often misaligned with reality. Plain and simple, being human is not plain and not simple. It is, in fact, hard work. So, as a Coach, and a person committed to wellness, what would I tell myself on a day that I am finding it particularly difficult to be human? Go to bed early? Take a hot bath? Remember to eat? Talk to a friend for comfort and guidance? Or would I just say, "Pack a bag, and hit the road while there is still an opportunity to run?" The truth is, there is no where to run to. Clearly, I would follow myself wherever I go. As long as I exist in the current form, I am left with the difficult task of facing my humanity. Sitting up taller in my chair, and acknowledging the remarkable gift that humans do have, the powerful gift of choice, I take a deep breath and consider all the wisdom that I have developed over the years. First, I can choose to look at my humanness as a burden or I can re-frame that thought and feel some excitement over who and what I am. I am an incredible unique being unlike any other being on this earth (and so are you). Humans have this ability to choose what they think and even manage their feelings and emotional experiences. We can take any experience and replay it over and over, or if it is unpleasant, let it go. What exactly does "let it go" mean. For me it means to replace the negative thoughts with something positive. I choose every day to live happy. (Ok, so some days don't follow the plan.) I choose to live free (as much as possible) of worry, stress, and my brain's negative interpretation and expansion of certain experiences. Next, I have learned to live in the present so that I don't miss the "good stuff." The good stuff is like coming home to be greeted by the cat that had been missing for three days (during which time I was trying not to replay the thought that he might be dead). The good stuff includes the friend who calls and thinks your terrific. Or the daughter who laughs with you at the ups and downs of living. The good stuff is when someone says thank you for making a difference in their life, for helping them accept their mother's death with a little bit more grace. The good stuff is taking a walk; smelling, feeling, and hearing the sounds of the season and everything around you. Life is filled with good stuff. So why is it so quickly lost in the hard stuff? Because that's where most of us put our attention. Each day I try to laugh, try to play, try to pray. Oh yea, pray. In my opinion, it doesn't really matter to what or to whom you pray. I think it is the experience and the knowing that there is something profoundly at work in our universe and in our lives. There is this energy force compelling us forward and connecting us. So through moments of prayer, laughter, and play we can begin to fill our thoughts with the joy of being human. We can savor each moment, knowing that somehow we will survive the hard stuff and maybe just thrive as a result. The other day my friend, who I was visiting while on vacation, asked me do I really believe that I have such power over my thoughts and experiences? We happened to be discussing the weather at the time. The report was for rain. My response was I don't think about the possibility of bad weather. In fact, it had never rained on my vacation in her state before. She was, of course, in disbelief. Do I believe my thoughts are that powerful? Perhaps not, but we did have a beautiful day on the beach.