I Would If I Could

Recently I was fishing around in the back of my desk drawer, and a little plastic wallet-size card jumped out at me. The top of the card read, Energy Recharge Card – 10 Tips for Great Energy. It is something I designed and produced many years ago.

I thought how, when coming across things like this, my first impulse is sometimes to toss them back in the drawer, unread. Energy tips are all fine and good, but I often just don’t have the energy, time, or motivation to add more things to my life, even if they would be beneficial for me.

Then I glanced at the first tip on the card, and it read: Check your Attitudes Let go of beliefs that drain you, and I realized I couldn’t have needed that suggestion for greater balance and energy more!

I, like many of us, tend to limit myself with the attitude that I only have so much time and energy, so I should resist most creative and enjoyable tasks and activities until I get the important things done. Spending more quality time with friends and family, adding new recreations, and focusing on opportunities for expansion and growth (such as the Energy Recharge Card tips) are a few of the things that often have to wait.

But I know that if this attitude becomes too powerful, we pay a very high price. We lose much of our ability to embrace new opportunities, to recharge with play and love, and to grow our minds and bodies and spirits. Wouldn’t our lives be better and richer if we could replace “I would if I could” with a belief that “I do have energy and time for the opportunities life continues to offer?”

I keep reminding myself that resources are always there for the asking, and we have a lot more energy and time than we think. Here is a visualization I sometimes use, to remind myself that my life is abundant.

I imagine all I need as sand on an endless beach. I see myself sitting in a sandbox on the beach, and when I want more energy or time, I reach beyond my sandbox with a toy shovel and scoop up time, energy, or whatever I want, from that endless abundance.

I was grateful for re-discovering the card, and re-reading the first tip. It reaffirmed for me that each positive thought provides additional momentum for embracing what is energizing and self-fulfilling. To keep expanding, we need to let go of draining beliefs that keep us closed to greater energy.

Here are pictures of the front and back of the Energy Recharge Card. I hope you’ll check out these 10 tips, and listen oh so closely to the one that wants to be scooped into your life right now.

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The Hug

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The holiday season is upon us. Our pace quickens and our minds take us to places we don’t want to go—feeling hurried and harried. I know there are people who thrive on the fast rhythms of this time of year, and seem to easily navigate all the demands. I just don’t happen to be among them.

Last year I decided to approach the season with a lighter, more open-hearted attitude, and see what would happen. I realized that the first thing I needed to do was get in charge of my busy thoughts. So this is what I did: when I started agonizing over what I had to get done, I said to myself, “Stop.”

Silly as it sounds, I visualized a school crossing guard holding up her stop sign to on-going traffic so positive thoughts had a chance to safely walk across to my anxious mind. This gave me an opportunity to replace my out-of-control list of tasks with things like “I take a deep breath and open to all good things.”

I guess I planted some good seeds because it didn’t take long for something to pop up, in of all places the vortex of seasonal anxiety, the gigantic Walmart in Gallup, New Mexico. Walking with my husband, Tim, into that packed cavernous place one day last December, I’m sure I had a “deer in the headlights” look on my face. All I knew was that I really didn’t want to be there, and I was feeling downright grumpy. I was not even close to the holiday spirit.

Sure enough, nothing went right. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I was annoyed at the crowds, and soon I was deeply frustrated. As I was wandering down an aisle looking for wrapping paper, an older Navajo woman came up to me and asked if I needed any help. She was a fellow shopper, and she said she knew where things were located.

As she cheerfully ushered me around, she remarked that she had two jobs and going for short periods of shopping worked best for her, so she came to Walmart often. She definitely knew her way around, and we found ourselves laughing and sharing what we were going to do during the holidays as items on my list quickly got checked off.

Tim completed his rounds and joined us, and before she went on her merry way, she gave us each a strong, open-hearted hug, which instantly pulled us out of our task anxiety and opened our hearts. It was a wonderful experience that afternoon, when a small joyful woman blew both our hearts open with a hug.

I often think about that stranger’s smiling kindness, especially now as the holiday season is upon us. It is a gift that gives me joy each time I remember it. This year, rather than a stop sign, I will call up my memory of that woman’s hug, and I know my heart will open, which will help to lighten the people around me. And when I hug people, I will try to pass on her gift. I will hug with the holiday spirit energy of that wonderful woman at Walmart.

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Winter Light

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We are deep in winter’s gloom now. The weather this year is especially hard—filled with long cold droughts, or powerful storms that march through day after day. We spend most of our time inside, with fewer activities to pull us out of ourselves and keep us on a somewhat even keel.

We gripe about the weather. We criticize people and situations around us. Our fuse is short and we’re ready to take on most anything that annoys us. More often than not, we aren’t even aware that we are stuck in negativity—it’s just the way things are. This is a common condition for many of us, particularly during a winter like this.

Something that helps me lift the gloom and be more peaceful and content, is to focus on being more grateful. When I search every day for things to appreciate, I am brighter, more openhearted, and a more pleasant companion.

It isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It doesn’t work very well if I just notice good things in my day, and then move on. Most of us notice positive things, but rarely give ourselves a few moments to let the appreciation sink in. It makes a big difference when we take time to really cherish the blessings in our lives.

As I started concentrating on feeling appreciation for my bright spots, I discovered that there were many more of them than I had previously recognized. It was as if I placed a fresh lens to my eyes that sparked new positive thoughts.

I looked for positive things in everyday happenings. I felt grateful for finding an empty space in a crowed parking lot, and sat in my car for a few seconds and felt grateful. I savored the enjoyment (with no guilt) of a delicious piece of chocolate. I recognized and felt my joy at hearing the voice of a dear friend on the telephone.

As the days went by, I’ve celebrated more deeply a wide range of wonderful things—a meaningful talk with my son, a dentist’s skillful painless work, a moment of bright laughter with my husband. I’ve found that as my gratefulness grows, it continues to deepen my days.

An area of gratefulness I particularly embrace is what I call my secret victories. These are moments when I follow my wiser self, rather than give in to my baser impulses. When I don’t pass on a bit of juicy gossip or I respond to an irritating remark with love, I feel gratitude that I am being more the person I want to be. The more I celebrate my secret victories, the more I appreciate how they help me to love myself.

My friend Jill mentioned that everyday she writes down three things for which she is grateful. She puts a twist to it, however: she lists experiences from the day before. I followed her suggestion and have discovered that by writing about the previous day, I add new depth and perspective. I like revisiting past experiences, and seeing how they re-energize me.

I don’t know if this grateful zone I’ve been living in lately is creating new things to appreciate, or if I am just noticing what is there before me. Does it really matter? All I know is that by actively appreciating, I am waking up to a fuller, more energetic life.

Thanks to Ed Packard for the lovely picture he recently took of winter light, just north of Flagstaff, Arizona.

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Holiday Worry Wires

This time of year is so chock full that for many of us, life becomes overwhelming. Our minds and emotions go into overdrive, churning old familiar questions: do I have the right presents for family and friends, why haven’t I gotten the cards written and sent, how can I get through all the Christmas dinner preparations? As if that weren’t enough, a master worry looms over it all—where will I get the time?

These are the goblins that can keep us awake, flood us with anxiety, and steal the happiness that should be the centerpiece of our holidays. The good news, though, is that we can rewire our brains in more positive directions. Whatever our unique combination of floating anxieties, we can replace the sizzling wires in our brains with ones of peace and happiness. A simple technique that I have found especially useful involves just a couple of steps.

First, unless I can separate myself from my worries and emotions, I’m not in a position to truly recognize and change them. They are usually operating on automatic in the background, and I have to be able to deal with them from a place of calm. So the first thing I do is step back from my anxiety and into my watcher mode.

The second thing I do is place a new positive thought beside them, like wiring around the circuits that are causing all the stress.

There is a particular wire that I have been busily installing into my emotional brain these days. When an anxious thought pops up, I move into my quiet watcher self. Then with my breath I inhale the words, “present moment,” and as I exhale I release the words, “wondrous moment.”

Every time I breathe “present moment, wondrous moment,” stress fades more easily. That is because with repetition, the holiday worry wires in my brain that have grown stronger year after year are weakening, and the peaceful “in the moment” wire I have placed next to them is becoming stronger. I am creating a new pattern of thoughts and emotions that is becoming dominant over the old ones of worry and anxiety.

We can be amazing architects of our thoughts and feelings. That is a wonderful thing to know and this is a wonderful time of year to begin the process, by wiring new thoughts and feelings alongside those old stressful anxious ones. We can consciously create a holiday season that is all we want it to be.

I hope you’ll join me as we create new patterns of joy. It is all there for us, in our breath.

 

 

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Wild Turkey Feathers in Kansas City

In May, Tim and I attended a series of book signings and talks in Kansas City, where I spent a majority of my earlier life. I was eagerly looking forward to a combination homecoming and celebration of my new book, filled with friends and new acquaintances.

Before we left, we went to the Inscription Rock Trading Post, to get a few gifts to take with us. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, we shop at Inscription Rock. Not only are its owners, Pan and Jon Pickens, dear friends, but they have developed deep and long relationships with some of the finest Zuni and Navajo artisans in the area.

The Zunis are known throughout the world as fine carvers of fetishes, small stone figures that represent different personal qualities, such as strength, wisdom, loyalty, and health. I wanted something particularly special for our friends Linda and Michael, who were hosting one of my events, and I thought a Zuni fetish would be just the thing.

As I looked at the cases filled with Zuni fetishes, I was immediately drawn to an intricately carved turkey dancer, a tan figure about three inches high in full Turkey Dance costume, including a handful of tiny white-tipped feathers.

I asked Pam to tell us about the carving, and she said that Turkey Dances are performed in the Zuni Pueblo to attract wild turkeys, so their feathers can be used to make prayer sticks. Prayer sticks are ceremoniously placed at different locations around the pueblo, to send energy of peace, healing, and happiness into the world.

The fetish was beautiful, and seemed to want to accompany us to Kansas. We purchased it and Pam carefully wrapped it in many layers of bubble wrap for the long drive to its new home.

We gave the fetish to Linda and Michael the day after the event at their home, and Linda placed it in a prominent place on a kitchen window ledge, a spot where she would see it throughout the day.

A few weeks after we returned to New Mexico, Linda sent me an e-mail with an amazing story. Despite the fact that wild turkeys are unusual in the Kansas City area and are almost never seen in a city, one had appeared in their backyard for two days in a row. She said, “I think its clear that the turkey dancer figure has found his perfect home.”

For my part, I hope the wild turkey that somehow found its way into their backyard will carry the same message of healing, peace, and happiness that is carried by the turkey feathers on the Zuni prayer sticks. I have a feeling that the turkey dancer fetish sitting in Linda’s window will magically help it happen.

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Hurry Hurry Disease

A new disease is rampant among us. Contagious as the flu, persistent as a bad cough, the “hurry hurry” disease is a malady of the mind. The symptoms are a frequent feeling that we must rush through our lives because we don’t have enough time to do all we have to do, that we are somehow running out of the precious commodity of our days and hours and minutes. The disease can become chronic, so our entire lives feel rushed and frantic, leaving us continuously grumpy, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

Despite what one might think, no one is immune to “hurry hurry” disease. Even those of us who live seemingly quiet uneventful lives can be regularly wakeful in the middle of the night, as our minds churn over and over the things we tell ourselves must be done the next day.

How does “hurry hurry” play itself out in any given day?

v We start the day with a drill sergeant inner voice pushing us out of bed, reciting an extensive list of what needs to get done, and chanting “gotta get going, gotta get going.”

v We are continuously aware of the “to do” list. As we rush through the day, instead of feeling satisfied by what we check off, we focus on the things we haven’t done.

v We sometimes think yearningly of something relaxing we would like to do; pick up a book, go for a walk, or take a nap. We immediately reject the thoughts and return our focus to what we have to do right now. We tell ourselves that we’ll do it later, but at some level we know there’ll never be the time.

Our minds are like harried children that need a time-out, and that is something we can provide them in brief moments throughout the day. We don’t have to be controlled by a compulsion to be constantly busy and productive. We can do small things that pull us back into ourselves, that refresh and re-energize us.

These things are easy because all you have to do is disengage your mind from the clock and your list, and connect within yourself. It may be a relaxing stretch, a deep breath with an exhale that releases the tension you have been carrying, or a smile that connects you to a stranger in the grocery store.

As you do these things, you will gradually free yourself from the “hurry hurry” loop. You build a fresh attitude toward time that supplants the stressful thought, “I don’t have enough of it,” with an encouraging and reassuring, “All in good time.”

You will find that the less you live by the clock, the more you inhabit your life. “Hurry hurry” disease will fade, and the moment and your life will brighten and you will become more at ease.

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Thank you for this Day

Moods are strange things. They come and go, almost like weather patterns. One day we may rise from our bed as bright as a summer day, filled with twinkle and bounce, and on another wake to clouds of grey that settled over us while we slept.

Our moods also rise or fall in a moment because of tiny things: a surly word, a loving smile, a bit of good or bad news. Every day is full of events that influence us–the actual weather, an angry program on the radio, trouble with our computer, a happy child.

It is almost as if we are sailing ships that are at the whims of the weather and the vageries of the ocean. But there are ways to maintain our mood balance, tools we can use like outriggers to keep emotionally afloat.

One very helpful way to maintain a more steady and positive mood is to start our mornings making a decision to accept with gratitude what the day will bring. I was at the eye doctor recently and as he was checking my eyes, he clicked lenses in and out and asked, “Is this better or worse?” It reminded me how useful it can be to equip ourselves with a positive lens each morning.

Here is a traditional American Indian “positive lens” practice, that is as powerful as it is simple.

Each morning when you rise, take a moment to face east, open your heart, and think these words: “Thank you for this day.”

That’s all there is to it. You may want to think, “Thank you Mother Earth,” or “Thank you God, or the Universe”…you can use any words that have meaning for you.

The important thing is that you are opening your heart to gratitude for the day before it unfolds. You are expressing trust in creation, trust that whatever happens will be the right thing for you. You are saying in effect, “I will not wait to see how the day turns out before I decide whether or not to be grateful. I accept and give thanks in advance for the gift of this day and whatever it contains.”

Making a conscious decision to accept and embrace each day this way doesn’t insure that the day will go smoothly, but it does dramatically impact how we respond. It pre-sets our gratitude filters. Give it a try.

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