Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lessons from Lincoln

Lincoln engaged in his favorite activity - tearing the stuffing from his bed

Navigating life with three children--two grown and one still under my care--after divorce has been the greatest lesson of my life.  When I can step back and have awareness of what living beyond a 19 year marriage has yielded in terms of growth, I am so very grateful.  Yet, I am not immune to moments of anger, sadness, loneliness and simply being misunderstood and under-appreciated. This week, I felt a sense of being under-appreciated by an adult child.  I wanted my child to acknowledge my sacrifices, my this, my that....  In short, I expected to be validated in a way that only I can give to myself.  Those who have college-age kids can relate to the competing forces of guiding while letting go as our adult children search for a balance between independence and autonomy while still needing support and acceptance.  The answer to balancing those contrasting ideals came to me from an unlikely source--my dog, Lincoln.

Spiritual writer and philosopher, Mark Nepo, said when recounting the words of a Native American elder, "Animals never forget their original instructions, but human beings do."  Those instructions are to love and accept unconditionally.  When my adult children show up during summer breaks and holidays, they are met with the embrace of Lincoln shaking his tail uncontrollably at the door and jumping with excitement because they are simply in the room.  His excitement belies anything given in return.  If they ignore him when they came in, Lincoln holds the same enthusiasm.  He has no expectation of outcome.  He only wants to express his love.

As my adult child left our home, stooping to pet our precious Lincoln with a pure sense of love toward our rescued Pitbull from a just outside of the beltway Washington, D.C. shelter (thus the name, Lincoln), a flood of understanding filled my body.

I had forgotten my original instruction as a mother--to love and accept unconditionally.  I was not in the moment of the gift of my child visiting.  I was outside of that moment in my head with all kinds of expectations from my child, from myself and for the future of our separate and mutual lives.  I fell outside of experiencing what was right before me--the loving gift of being a mother. 

Lincoln taught me to release my grown children to their own journeys and to honor their choices while I honor my own.  Like Lincoln standing at the front door sensing the beauty of his beloved family before they even come into view, I will no longer take for granted the gift of having a beautiful soul come to me, a soul that come through me, by allowing that soul to walk at their own pace along side of me in this life.  Whether or not I see them next to me, behind me, in front of me or not at all, I can sense them, like Lincoln, being not too far off in the distance.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Four Ways to Solve Pressing Problems

Photo By Azure McBride

The meditative mind is a creative, open and aware mind.  Learning to harness that energy can produce amazing results in business, love or in any area of our lives.  We can direct that fertile energy by tapping our meditative mind in these four ways:

1.       Give Yourself Permission to Solve Problems in Your Sleep
Dreams have informed me for much of my life.  I began writing my memoir based on a recurring dream of my father.  To use the information in your dreams, set an intention to resolve a problem before you go to bed.  Simply state the problem and ask that the answer be given while you sleep.  If you fear you may have trouble remembering your dream, set an intention to remember the dream by saying to yourself several times, "I will remember my dream when I wake up."  It is a simple practice, but it does work.  Place a notebook by your bed and when you wake, record your dream.  Clues to solving stubborn issues may appear.  You may need to repeat this practice over several days or weeks, but with time you will see a theme emerging from your dreams that will give you guidance.  It is not wishful thinking, scientists are discovering more about our dreams and how the brain functions every day.  Robert Strickgold, associate professor of psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School states: "...sleep permits a time when the brain can search for and identify useful associations between recently formed emotional memories and older ones, helping to place them in a more useful context, from which their resolution may become more readily apparent."

2.       Take a Mindful Walk
Albert Einstein and writer Virginia Woolf both took walks to clear their minds to create the space for new ideas to emerge.  Walking, especially in nature, can quiet the voices in our heads that keep us from getting a clear answer to our problems.  Walking can also help us break through creative blocks.  Taking a mindful walk simply means quietly putting our attention on our surroundings.  We do not need to overly observe, all that is required is to gently notice.  When we find our mind cluttering up with worries or chores of the day, we can redirect our attention towards our environment.  When we consciously let go of whatever it is that is plaguing us and decide to enjoy every step of our path, our mind is open to new ideas and solutions.

3.       Deep Breathing
The art of deep breathing from the diaphragm is as old as man and is a practice used by athletes, women in labor, singers, actors and in mediation.  I find this practice to be quickest and easiest way to reset my inner emotional landscape, and I use it daily if not several times per day.  Deep breathing facilitates an  energy that the Chinese call Chi, the Hindu call Prana and masters of old and scientist today tout can strengthen the body, make us calmer and even happier.  We can take a deep breath any time we feel stressed, hold it for a count of three or four and then release it fully like deflating a balloon to recharge our bodies and minds. 

4.       Create a Mantra
Creating a mantra is another practice that I use often.  By simply repeating a phrase such as "I know the answer," "I trust," or a popular mediation mantra, "I am," connecting ourselves with our divine entity if we so believe, a more positive mental state can be achieved.  The easy practice of creating a mantra and repeating it to ourselves several times when we feel stuck can redirect our thinking and infuse us with confidence and hope.