Playful Possibilities

Whether it be solving a problem, meeting a challenge, or making a decision, it is important to make the most creative choice possible. In other words, one should attempt to choose a path leading to a positive win-win conclusion. This isn’t always easy, especially when we become closed-minded and want nothing more than our own way. I’ve found this particularly present in couples counseling. More often than not the two agree to come into counseling only to prove that they are right and the other person wrong.

However, it’s been my experience that the best solution, action or decision comes out of a third thing. Finding that third thing takes an optimum amount of creativity and just plain old playfulness. When we are creative, we give ourselves permission to rely on chance, serendipity and silliness. In fact, through humor many wonderful ideas burst forth from the imagination—the psyche, if you will. Possibilities abound and as a result, one has a sense of freedom to explore and find deeper meanings in the process.

For example, say I want to go on vacation where there are many historical structures and museums to discover and wander through. I want to go with my significant other, but he or she wants to go someplace warm and lie on a sandy beach. We could argue back and forth until one or the other of us gives in, but that is hardly what I would call a win-win situation. We could also opt to not go anywhere since we cannot decide. But that is what I see as a lose-lose situation, not much different from choosing to take separate vacations. I mean, both people get to do “their own thing,” but not together.

After some long talks and research (good old Google), a creative solution can manifest—one which not only satisfies both parties, but excites them as well. This very situation came up for my husband and I; I wanted to go to Europe and he wanted to go to a sunny beach. (I’m sure he was thinking of some Caribbean island although he was never specific.) Where did we end up vacationing?

Greece!

Now these kinds of things take time and effort as well as creativity to produce. Yet, in the long run they are worth it, especially if both parties can approach the issue with a sense of play, good humor and creative energy. It is almost like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time for one must hold their own while at the same time giving in. The answer is to be seriously goofy and goofily serious at the same time. Tricky stuff but it can be done as long as one commits themselves to finding a third way with an attitude of joy, excitement and abandonment.

The Gifts Babies Bring Us

laughingbaby

I count myself as fortunate to not only have a close girlfriend who had a baby in March of this year, but my new neighbors also have a baby turning one year old this November. I am inundated by babies, and I love it! And now with the end of the year’s holidays upon us, I am especially mindful of all the gifts babies can bring to a person’s life.

“All the evidence that we have indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth, or towards the actualization.”              Abraham Maslow
For me the presence of a baby reminds me that renewal is always possible. A baby promises a new chapter in our lives, a new beginning—perhaps even a second chance. Babies figure prominently during the holidays, foretelling that a change of year will be soon upon us. And with the New Year comes a sense of starting over, of beginning anew, of transformation.

“The single overriding objective in wellness is creating constant personal renewal where we recognize and act on the truth that each day is a miraculous gift, and our job is to untie the ribbons. That’s the Law of Esprit: living life with joy.” Greg Anderson
Babies also signify the birthing of a new idea, project or adventure.  Babies require our diligence. They need to be nourished, disciplined and guided toward positive growth in all areas of their lives. Just like the birthing of our new endeavors, we need to give them the necessary nurturance, focus and positive energy they need to grow and stand on their own.

Babies demand our full presence. Absent-mindedness or laziness cannot be allowed, otherwise danger may follow. The same must be said about that which we are birthing as the New Year approaches. In either case, we must stay healthy, positive and patient, for we are asked to take on a new kind of personal responsibility that pushes forward into realizing our best gifts, whatever form they may take.

“If there are flaws they are in ourselves, and our task therefore must be one not of redesign but of renewal and reaffirmation, especially of the standards in which all of us believe.”   Elliot Richardson

Therefore, sharpen your spiritual eyesight and be on the lookout for all the babies within the scope of your vision, for you are entering a time or renewal and reaffirmation—the adventure of bringing into the world the seeds of your life’s purpose, the birthing and re-birthing of your heart’s desires.

Giving Thanks

“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”
― John Henry Jowett

thanksgiving

Thankfulness has a much different connotation to me than the work gratitude. When one is in the state of being grateful, they are attuning their soul to their innermost thoughts. It is a private, inward experience. A way of Being—analytical and reflective. However, thankfulness or being thankful means that action in the present is being taken. One is purposefully thanking Providence, God or the Universe for any number of things that a person is glad for or joyful about. A person may also be thanking others for their words and services—perhaps their very being.

“Joy is thankfulness, and when we are joyful, that is the best expression of thanks we can offer…” ― Thaddeus of VitovnicaOur Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Thankfulness is a sign something or someone has brought us joy—that our world is that much happier of a place to be in. In other words, we are happier people due to the fact that we have something or someone we are grateful for. Yet, true happiness comes in the act of verbalizing or demonstrating our thankfulness in meaningful ways.

So … it seems fairly clear to me …

If you want to be happy and have a joy-filled life, be grateful for your blessings.

But more importantly, speak out your thankfulness in both word and deed. Make clear to the Infinite Presence as well as those who cross your path that you are thankful for who they are and what they do!

 

Sleep, Stress, and the Impossible To-Do List


I have often heard it said that the faster a person goes, the faster they have to go. In other words, business is addicting. So much so, that the more a person accomplishes in a single day, the more the feel compelled to accomplish the next day. And the next and the next! I personally have had the experience of feeling emotionally happy if I complete my To-Do list like crap if I don’t. Talk about self-imposed stress!

insomnia-3

Yet I know that I am not the only person to deal with this “Busy is Best” epidemic. As an American I have been schooled to think that action is everything—progress, achievement, a sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, the faster I go, the faster my mind goes. And when my day is being dictated by what To-Do list item needs to be met next, my mind never seems to have a chance to rest, relish the present moment, or reflect. My thoughts feel as if they are spinning dervishly like a top—afraid if I stop “doing” I’ll lose my edge and drop.

The price one pays for running at this racing clip is collected at night when one cannot get to sleep nor stay asleep. Insomnia sets in and the risk of becoming ill or seriously in danger of depleting one’s immune system sneaks up on us and wields a mighty blow. Then to keep going we succumb to sucking down coffee, ingesting sugary foods, and relying on nicotine to supplant the edge that is slowly but surely disappearing from us.insomnia2

And then at the end of the day to wind down we often resort to too much TV, too many video games, and too many hours surfing the internet. Now we can’t sleep no matter how hard we try. What’s worse is we think have a sleeping disorder, which we do symptomatically speaking, but what we really have is a To-Do list of the first order.

insomniaMy suggestion is three-fold. First, get rid of your To-Do list, or at the very least shorten it. Second, find time to supplant business with relaxation—like a bubble bath, a walk in nature, meditation or a short nap. Finally, take time out before going to bed at night to slowly prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep. Stay away from chemical stimulants as well as technology and media influences so that your body as well as your mind have a chance to slow down before you attempt to close your eyes. I know it will not be easy at first to follow this recipe for we are already addicted to the speediness of our day. However, I promise you in the long run you will have an even more productive day as a result as well as a more restful and healthy sleep.

 

A Study in Solitude

solitudeRecently a friend of my son’s passed through our town after spending four months traveling alone on the Pacific Coast Trail. He began his adventure in Mexico and still had all of the states of Oregon and Washington to travel before his mission would be accomplished. I invited him over for dinner and we had a deep and serious conversation about the hardships and values of spending time alone with oneself, particularly in wilderness. He admitted that it was not for everyone. And that even now and then at the beginning of his hike he wondered if it was even for him. But after he finally passed through the threshold of loneliness, something soulful happened to him, opening him up to the significance of his initiatory experience which could only have occurred had he not become accustomed to solitude.
Most of us will never have the opportunity to give ourselves over to a solitary nine month hike, nor perhaps should we. But to find a place of soulfulness, a sanctuary of solitude in our busy lives is more valuable than I think we can imagine. Nearly every great teacher, thinker and artist has gone through some kind of initiatory experience where like Jacob they have had to wrestle with their own angel. Or demon. (Or Daimon, as James Hillman puts it.) Whatever the dragon is that protects them from facing the ecstasy and the terror of their own soul.
A time of solitude I think is especially important to a young adult when they are looking toward discovering who they are, what their life’s purpose is all about, and what kind of person they hope to spend the rest of their life with. But the fear of loneliness is always their lurking in the shadows. So distraction becomes the name of the game—video games, TV, computer surfing, all nighters at bars—you name it.
I think as a culture we all need to take time out from our busy lives from time to time and give ourselves a sanctuary where our souls can be nourished and if needed, be made whole. Perhaps it may be taking up some creative activity, walking in nature, or even gardening. For my step-father it was tinkering in the garage. Whatever one chooses, it needs to be away from one’s phone, computer, family and neighbor. It needs to be in a treasured place where sanctuary is honored and aloneness tantamount. We need it as individuals, as a culture. We need it as inhabitants of this glorious interdependent planet.