Monday Musings ~ Effortless Effort

Effortless Effort Framed
As many of you are aware, I’m practicing the concept of  “effortless effort”. I know what you’re thinking. Ha! How hard can that be? Well, actually it takes some effort to find your flow. My Tai Chi Master said, “You’ll know you’re in the flow when your feet are rooted in the ground and the movements flow through you effortlessly.” Being “rooted in the ground” is a rather new concept for me – I tend to be the girl with her “head in the clouds”…just sayin.

I realize my Tai Chi instructor is a master of his craft because he’s been a student and teacher of Tai Chi for over forty years. Developing expertise, or mastery in any field of endeavor takes time, patience and practice. I’m reminded of the 10,000 hours rule cited by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outlier – The Story of Success.

“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” – Malcolm Gladwell

(I rather enjoy that Gladwell used the words “research” and “magic” in the same sentence!) Anyhow, I clearly have many hours of practice ahead of me before I master the art of Tai Chi.

However, in my effort to live in the flow of life, I discovered a new concept that has me fascinated!

“Purposeless wandering”

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, seriously this chic has gone off the deep end, but wait…before you rush to judgment, hear me out. Or better yet, listen to the wisdom of the ancients.

“Chuang Tzu refers to this type of being in the world as flowing, or more poetically, and provocatively, as “purposeless wandering!” How opposite this concept is to some of our most cherished cultural values. To have no purpose is unthinkable and even frightening … And yet it would be difficult to maintain that our current values have promoted harmony and balance…” ~ Ted Kardash, Taoism, and the Wu-Wei Principle.

The concept of “purposeless wandering” resonates with me because it describes the path I’ve been walking for the last few years. After decades of hard work and raising children, I finally have time to wander aimlessly and wonder.  My curiosity plays the role of tour guide and I am forever entertained.  I’m constantly tripping over a new found treasure on the trail!

Wander not lostMy most recent discovery is – poetry!  Last week, I wrote eight poems -in one day! That’s more poems than I’ve written in my lifetime. What’s up with that? Shhhhh….it’s magic, just sayin. If I can summon enough courage I may debut one of my poems here on my Friday Features post – stay tuned.

Although I’m enjoying following my curiosity and wandering the trail, I do believe I’m making progress on my journey.  I believe I’ve already mastered one of the most  important concepts of living in the flow (Wu- Wei) and that’s letting go of future outcomes. I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but I don’t really have attachments to future goals or outcomes. Yeah, I want to finish my memoir and master the art of Tai Chi, but hey, the world won’t end if I don’t.

And yet, I believe I’ll do both, not because I have to, but because I want to. Writing and Tai Chi are now part of my flow. Not yet effortless, but give me another 9,000 magical hours and I’ll get there!

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my purposeless wanderings along the path. Thank you for joining me on my journey!

Have a magical Monday my fellow travelers! ~ Namaste

Friday Features ~ I Am Another You

Mayan Greeting Final

I attended a lecture years ago on Our Shared Humanity. The speaker opened with a greeting, “Welcome, I am another you and you are another me.”  This ancient Mayan greeting, he explained, was used to express the interconnectedness of all things. The lecture focused on the common threads that bind us together and our ultimate “oneness”.

I am another you

In our human experience, he explained, we see everything as separate from ourselves. The “Others” are those who do not look like, dress like, think like or believe as we do.  We focus on those differences. We debate over who is right and who is wrong. We give energy to our separateness in an effort to strengthen our own ego. All too often we cultivate an environment of fear around the “otherness” of those not like us. The mere presence of the others is seen as threatening .

“And sometimes it’s the very otherness of a stranger, someone who doesn’t belong to our ethnic or ideological or religious group, an otherness that can repel us initially, but which can jerk us out of our habitual selfishness, and give us intonations of that sacred otherness, which is God.”
~ Karen Armstrong, Author & Scholar

And so I had a thought. What if we celebrated our common humanity? What if we held festivals and feasts to celebrate our love of family, friendship and our need of community? A festival where all Earthlings can be seen, heard, loved and respected and most of all – accepted.

A Festival of Earthlings

Earthlings DayJust as we celebrate “Earth Day”, with the mantra: Join the fight for the future of our planet.  I’d like to champion an “Earthlings Day”: Coming together with love for the future of all Earthlings.

I’ve often wondered if it will take aliens arriving from another planet to finally unite the human race. I hope that’s not the case. I can envision the aliens arrival as they descend from their spacecraft, extending their hand in friendship with the greeting, “I am another you, and you are another me.” 

Aliens Earth Bar Framed

Could it be that all those we see as “Others” are the sacred otherness which is God, as Karen Armstrong suggests? Could it be, that I am you – and you are me?

Sending love and light to my fellow earthlings. Have a magical weekend! ~ Namaste

Monday Musing ~ THE CHASE

Chase Framed

They chase me as I walk along the trail. They try to run me off the road when I’m driving!  Lately, they creep into my garden while I’m tending my flowers. I’ve thought about telling them to leave me alone but I need them.

And so I’ve turned the tables and now I capture them.  I have several of them trapped in a press. They sit, simmering…waiting their turn – waiting to be released. I check on them often, watering them, some of them grow, others shrivel and die. The ones that grow get released. Sometimes I put two of them together and they thrive and morph into something quite unexpected.

I don’t mind them chasing me anymore. I’m ready for them; I’ve armed myself. I still have to pull off the road to capture them safely, but now I have the proper tools on hand. I have the devices needed to capture these wispy, fleeting, magical things. So what chases me? What do I desperately need to capture?

IDEAS!

I asked the universe to send me ideas and I may as well have cast a spell! Because now they won’t leave me alone! They’re everywhere! Pure magic!

“Ideas are disembodied, energetic life forms.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

I was reassured when I read those words in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. She validated what I know to be true. Ideas are things, magical things. They seek us out – chase us, haunt us – if we’re open to receiving them. This part is important. If you don’t believe in magic you won’t experience it. This doesn’t mean you won’t have ideas, they’re just harder to come by and feel more like work.

The magic of the universe is effortless and fun. So let’s play a game of chase and see how many ideas you can capture today – tag, you’re it!

~ Namaste

 

 

 

Friday Features ~ LET’S BLOW BUBBLES!

Bubble gum bag framed

We were captivated as we watched the pink bubble grow bigger and BIGGER. And then, it emerged, a smaller bubble within the large pink bubble. Slowly, the small bubble began to grow bigger and BIGGER.

Bubble TeriFramed

It was pure GENIUS!

Teri had managed to blow a bubble the size of her face and then another bubble within the bubble! Her cheeks puffed out as she blew more air into her masterpiece! Then,

POP! SMACK!

Teri’s face was covered in gooey pink gum!

"WINNER"

“WINNER”

We cheered and laughed as we crowned Teri the winner of our annual office bubble blowing contest!

We asked how she’d managed it. Her secret, she shared, was to chew two pieces of bubble gum at once so you had more to work with – BRILLANT! And so it went, in future years, that we fought to see how many pieces of bubble gum we could chew at one time while mastering the DOUBLE BUBBLE!

It was an office tradition, back in the day. We loved to find ways to “play” at work! In fact “fun” was part of our office mantra, “We get it done while having fun!”

Now I know there are those who say there is no place for such antics in the workplace, to which I say “PHOOEY”!! (That’s a technical term for buzz-kill!)

Early in my career, I worked in an environment where laughter was prohibited and attempts at play were grounds for dismissal.  I remember thinking, “If ever I’m ‘Queen of Everything’ I’m going to declare laughter and play a requirement!”

And so it came to pass, in my Cinderella story of a career, that I was given the opportunity to lead a talented group of professionals. It took some time to master the art of leadership, (that’s a blog for another day) but one thing I knew from the start was I wanted to create an environment that encouraged laughter, play, and creativity!

Enter the double bubble! Our weekly staff meetings often started with an inspirational quote (everyone was required to take a turn – no one got a pass on creativity and inspiration!) One year we read “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson – one chapter each week. We had bubble gum blowing contests, scavenger hunts,  and a variety of team events. We also worked hard, developed our strategic plan, set our annual goals – and attained them! Happy equals productive … just sayin.

I realize that our office culture may not work for everyone or every profession but let me offer up a little challenge. On Monday, bring a bag of bubblegum to work and on your break, or lunch hour, challenge your co-workers to a bubble gum blowing contest.  You’ll  make some memories but most of all you’ll laugh – and any day you can laugh at work is a good day! Do it! I dare ya!

It’s the weekend peeps….go buy your bubblegum and practice the “double bubble”!!!

~Namaste

Monday Musing – Our Search for Meaning

Meaning Viktor FranklWe ask the age old questions: What’s life all about? Why am I made to suffer? What’s the meaning of my life? The answers to these questions are within our grasp, unique to each of us and accessible to all according to Viktor Frankl.

I recently read Viktor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, the story of his survival in the Nazi death camps during World War II. Before his imprisonment in Auschwitz, Victor Frankl was a prominent psychiatrist in Vienna.

After his liberation from the concentration camp in 1945, Frankl wrote his memoir. Throughout his book, he explains how our view of the world affects how we experience the world around us. He talks about his own spiritual growth while in the concentration camps,

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Life, he says is like a movie that we live frame by frame, and in each frame (the present moment) we find our purpose if we are willing to see.

Frankl goes on to explain it this way, “The meaning of life differs from man to man, day to day, hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”

We see our life in pieces: fragments from the past, our perspective from the present moment, and our dreams and anxieties of the future. Yet we can’t see the entirety of our life – we can’t watch the movie of our life; we can only live it frame by frame. And it’s in each frame, each precious moment, that our purpose exists.

Viktor on Meaning FramedAs for suffering, Frankl, who endured incredible suffering during his three years in the death camps says, “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering…which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds a meaning.” Although Frankl makes it clear that suffering is not required to find meaning in life, it does accelerate the process.

Our longing for the meaning of life is a shared human experience. Each of us has a purpose, a meaning in this human experience. We all have our gift(s) to share, art to create, love to embrace, suffering to endure and lessons to learn. If you’re seeking the meaning of life, look no further than yourself, for the answers lie within; right here, right now. If ever in doubt of your purpose, stop for a moment and count your blessings, be grateful and then perform random acts of kindness. There is purpose and meaning in acts of compassion that serve both you and humanity.

Now go forth and shine your light on the world and have a magical Monday! ~ Namaste

 

Friday Features : “That Girl” – Version 3.0

Marlo Thomas 1966

Marlo Thomas 1966

I wanted to be her – THAT GIRL! I was five-years-old when Marlo Thomas tossed her hat in the air in the middle of New York City and became “That Girl”. The sitcom, launched in 1966, was the first of its kind to feature a young single career woman, living alone in the big city.  In honor of the fifty year anniversary, let’s meet the present day “That Girl, version 3.0”.

THAT GIRL VERSION 3.0

Seattle Sunset3 Framed

Google Image

She’s a millennial living on the west coast in Seattle, the Emerald City. She leases a mid-century apartment in the hipster Ballard District and works for a tech company. She’s a college-educated twenty-something with a busy social life that she shares via Instagram, Snapchat, and the occasional Facebook post.

On this day at work, she’s at the Seattle Convention Center for her company’s annual employee meeting and is surrounded by co-workers from around the world. The annual meeting resembles a sci-fi convention with laser lights and big screens. Skinny jeans, booties, and top knot scarfs are standard office attire for women at this global gathering.

goggle image

Goggle Image

The employee afterparty is an Uber ride uptown in the artsy Fremont District where gourmet food trucks line the block. Microbrew beer and fine wine are served in white tents, adorned with twinkling lights. Entertainment includes Rockaraoke (karaoke with a live rock band) and Silent Disco (clubbers wear old-school wireless headsets and sing and dance to their favorite disco tunes). Photo booths are set up and provide the backdrop for selfies and smartphones allow quick uploads to social media in real time.

On any given night, at the mid-century apartment, our millennial is practicing her gourmet cooking skills through a home delivery service called, Blue Apron.  After dinner, she checks in with Chadwick, her personal stylist via the Trunk Club app on her smartphone.  Before calling it a night, she’ll write a review on the latest beauty products she received through her Birchbox subscription. Life is good.

Ashley That Girl

Ashley

The millennial “That Girl, version 3.0″ is my daughter Ashley – the one with the wicked sunglasses! (I’m stealing those next time she visits)  She’s living her dream in the big city and I’m proud of her! But wait! We skipped a generation!

THAT GIRL VERSION 2.0

So what happened to version 2.0? Well, that would be my generation. I came of age in the seventies and yes, I love disco! I had a successful career and raised a family with the love and support of my husband of thirty years. I was fortunate to retire early to pursue my passions. I traded in my business card for a quirky calling card that lists my new endeavors: Artist, Writer, and Mystic (aka woo-woo aficionado). And now I’m exploring the blogosphere and learning Tai Chi. Life is good!

THAT GIRL VERSION 1.0

But I want to take a moment and thank all the women that came before me! The generations of women that included my mother and grandmother, who stood up for injustice and sacrificed so their daughters could realize their dreams. My wish is for women around the world to have the same opportunity, to live and grow in a world that values them for their contribution to the world. Because every woman should have the opportunity to be “That Girl” and live the good life!

~ Namaste

 

 

Monday Musing ~ Chai Tea for the Tai Chi Master

chai tea framedI served Chai Tea to a Tai Chi Master during a poetry reading last week. It was a sacred moment and quite unexpected. The events of that evening unraveled in a series of missed connections and new discoveries.

Let me explain how the universe conspired to place me in the presence of a Tai Chi Master. For those who follow my blog you know that this is my “Year of Yes” (this introvert is saying yes to invitations and opportunities that I would typically shy away from).

So here is how it began. I recently joined a writer’s group and offered to help fold and mail the spring newsletter. My contact, Lois, a sweet older woman, called and asked to stop by my home to drop off the newsletters but I was on my way to another event (a “year of yes” has filled my calendar). So I suggested we meet later in the day to which she responded, “Do you like poetry, dear?”

“Of course, I do,” I stumbled, wondering if that was true, having never truly grasped the lyrical prose of poetry.

“Wonderful,” she replied. “Then let’s meet at the bookstore in town at 7 pm for the poetry reading. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee,” she offered.

“Um, okay, that sounds lovely,” I replied. Oh dear, what had I gotten myself into?

“Oh, and Sue, if you arrive before I get there please order me a chai tea, no cream.”

“Of course, chai tea, no cream,” I repeated. “I look forward to seeing you, Lois.”

And so it happened that I arrived before 7 pm at the bookstore and ordered an iced coffee for myself and a chai tea, no cream, for Lois. The barista said she would bring the tea to the table after it had steeped for the proper time.

I found my way to the back of the musty old bookstore to a small room filled with books from floor to ceiling. Three older men sat around a long table talking. They fell silent upon my approach.

I introduced myself and explained that Lois had invited me. They welcomed me and offered me a seat. I sat next to an old man with a long white beard, bushy eyebrows, and cloudy blue eyes. He asked my name and I said it three times, moving closer to him with each effort until he responded “Ah, Susan.” He then confessed he was hard of hearing.

The men had been discussing the looming eye surgery of the old man. His cataracts so thick he is rendered nearly blind.

As the men spoke and I listened, several other people arrived and gathered around the table. The barista entered with a small tray, holding a beautiful white teacup and saucer and a small pot of chai tea. She placed the tray of tea on the table in front of me. It was 7 pm, Lois must be running late, I thought. The old man called the poetry meeting to order.

He asked if I had a poem to read. I responded, “Oh goodness, no. I’m just here to listen and learn.”poetry framed

And so the old man went around the room inviting others to read their poems. The man named “Shadow” read powerful poems of history and war, and girls in knee-high boots. The big man with the beard read romantic poems of love and loss and moonlit nights. The man named Noah read poems of nature, hiking, and guns. They read, critiqued and discussed each poem at length.

And then the old man, blinded by cataracts and nearly deaf, recited his poem on Infinity, from memory. I was awestruck. He recited several more of his poems, pausing for effect, his prose musical and enchanting.

His poem on Silence held me spell-bound. Afterward, he explained the importance silence plays in our world, based on his experience with Tai Chi. (Have I mentioned I’ve always wanted to learn Tai Chi?)

The old man recounted the opening of the Beijing Summer Olympics where over two-thousand Chinese performed Tai Chi in silence. I was transfixed by his words, his quiet, calm, yet powerful energy.  I inquired of his experience with Tai Chi. He explained that he had studied the art of Tai Chi with the Grand Master, William Chen.

William Chen, Tai Chi Grand Master

William Chen, Tai Chi Grand Master

The old man said, humbly, that he had been studying and teaching Tai Chi for over 45 years and was simply a Tai Chi Master, not a Grand Master.

I glanced down at the teapot on the table, an hour had passed, still no Lois. I offered the tea to the old man and he graciously accepted.

I reached over and placed the teacup and saucer in front of him. As I poured the tea from the pot he took a deep breath and smiled. “Smells delicious. Thank you, Susan, you are too kind,” he said, lifting the teacup to his lips.

It was in that moment, goosebumps covered my body and I knew I was in the presence of a great spiritual master. I recalled the saying:

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears”

And so, in the spirit of saying “yes” to the universe, I took my first Tai Chi lesson yesterday from the old man. I learned about “effortless effort” and “investment in loss”. I also learned the first three movement sets of Tai Chi, slowly, with patience, as the master guided me.Tai Chi moves

As for my friend Lois, she called to apologize for missing the poetry reading. Yet I am grateful for her invitation and the opportunity to pour tea for my new teacher. And who knows, I may just learn to make words sing like a poet while mastering the power of silence, balance, and patience through the art of Tai Chi.

Wishing you all a magical Monday!

~ Namaste

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Features: Alone

Alone FramedWho are you when everything has been stripped away? How long could you live by yourself in the wilderness? This is the premise of the show Alone on the History Channel.

alone_season 1 FramedTen people are chosen and dropped off in remote locations on the rugged coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. They are allowed ten items to help them survive, alone, in the wilderness. The season one winner lasted 56 days alone in the wilderness. He emerged 60 pounds lighter and forever changed.

Alone: Season One Survivor

Alone: Season One Survivor

“I’m just saying, balance in all things. We’re gonna have to slow down, think and get back to being real people, listening to each other. I think if we focused on what we have in common instead of where we differ things would change.” ~ Alan Kay, Alone, Season One Survivor

I started watching season two last week and can’t help but wonder if I have the hutzpa to survive alone in the wilderness.  Heck, I get scared when hubby goes off for a weekend hunting trip and leaves me alone in the house! I can only imagine how terrified I would be in the woods alone, in the dark!

alone-cast-season-2 FramedIt’s interesting to watch what happens to these men (they included women in season two) as they struggle with survival in the harsh elements. Sure, building a shelter, making fire, finding fresh water and food require skill and effort but often that’s not what leads to the folks tapping out. It’s the mental fortitude needed to survive without the comfort of another human, left to their own thoughts. It’s not so much the “things out there” that they have to worry about, it’s what’s inside their own mind that they fear most.

It’s the weekend, so grab some popcorn and marathon your way through season one if you missed it. Full episodes of season one and the first three episodes of season two are available on the history channel website.

Join me on Monday and we’ll explore man’s search for meaning. I bet some of the folks from season one could tell you all about that.  Stay tuned ~

Have a great weekend my fellow travelers!

~Namaste

Monday Musing ~ Living Your Best Life

A Tree FramedWhat does it mean to live your best life? For many years, I didn’t give it much thought. I was too busy living my life in a chaotic, fast-paced, career-oriented way. All that changed in mid-life when I jumped off the career ladder and onto my spiritual path. After years of studying the wisdom traditions, I realized the phrase “Know Thyself” is an important concept if I wanted to live my best life. It requires an inward journey.

So, I did some soul searching and wrestled with the little monsters in my mind. I know that to live my best life I need to keep an open mind, live with an open heart, show compassion towards all and practice the art of Wu Wei.

Open Mind ~

Keeping an open mind allows me to hear other perspectives without judgment. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything I hear but I stay open to learning how others think, feel and view the world. Listening with an open mind requires that I give my full attention to another. Listening is an act of love.

CourageOpen Heart ~

Living with an open heart makes me vulnerable. Of course, I want to protect my heart from suffering, from rejection and heartbreak. But in protecting my heart I end up closing myself off from the world and others. I close my heart out of fear. Living with an open heart requires courage and a willingness to let go of past hurt through forgiveness and acceptance. Living with an open heart allows me to experience love and happiness and to share that love and happiness with others.

Life is an EchoCompassion ~ 

Showing compassion towards all is a reminder to live by the golden rule, treating others as I wish to be treated. I remind myself that we are all God’s creatures; no one is above or below the other. One of the most powerful spiritual lessons I’ve learned is that what I judge in others is a reflection of that which exists in me. I am also reminded that a simple act of kindness creates an endless ripple that you send out into the world.

Wu Wei ~

And finally, through the Taoist practice of Wu Wei, non-doing, non-reaction, I live in the flow of life. I focus on living in the present moment and accepting that I don’t have control over other people or events. My power lies in how I choose to react to the present moment. Typically, no action is required; acceptance is often the better course.

So there you have it, my recipe for living my best life. It’s taken me half a lifetime, some tough lessons and an inward journey to figure out what works for me.  What’s your recipe for living YOUR BEST LIFE? It’s never too early, or late, to ask yourself the question. I suspect you already have the answers if you’re willing to look within and “Know Thyself”.

Wishing you a magical Monday! ~ Namaste