Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snow Magnolias

I am sitting here thinking about the passing of the two days of vacation that I just took from my job and realizing that a lot of life can be packed into two days. As always, I had great plans for these two days...and of course, did not accomplish much of anything on the list. Yet it was the best short vacation I have ever taken. Why, you might ask? Well, after thinking about it, I realize that when I let life just "happen", it does just that. All the things that really needed to get done, got done, and I was able to play games with my children, redecorate rooms with them and even read a little bit of a book.

It is such a wonderful feeling to just exist. No planning, just being. On the first day of my mini-vacation we got a foot of beautiful snow. While almost everyone was grumbling about a mid-February storm, I was noticing the snow magnolias. Snow magnolias are those wonderful little snow balls that sit on the tips of the branches of the dormant magnolia trees; the elusive little snowballs that only show up during a certain kind of snowstorm. They arrive with the heavy sticky snow and then only stay around for a brief time, as the sun quickly turns these snowbuds into puddles in the snowbanks below. I just happened to be driving around town at the precise time that the snow magnolias were in full bloom. They were beautiful! There is no way one can be lost in worry, or in their personal task lists, when these snow magnolias appear. Once you catch a glimpse of them, you just slow down. Even if only for a minute.

Of course the only way to see a snow magnolia is to be aware; really aware of what is happening around you. Imagine all the things in life you would notice if you were ever-present. Not all the things you notice might interest you, but you will experience them nonetheless. These micro-experiences are what help us engage with others we encounter. They provide fodder for conversation just when you think there is nothing to connect us. They also help us to put our larger issues into perspective, reminding us that life really is beautiful and that sometimes we are just clouded over with doubt and unable to see.

My wish for the world is that everyone gets the opportunity to see their own snow magnolias. Enjoy and just be.

Namaste',

Michelle

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Appreciation, or not.

Today I had the pleasure of telling my 6 year old daughter to stop picking up the cat at least seven times. The final time, while watching the cat puff up, growl and hiss at her, I suggested very firmly that she needed to put the cat down NOW. After letting the cat leap from her arms, my daughter turned to me, hands on hips and said, "That cat just doesn't appreciate me!"

It was such an honest statement that I had to laugh, as I never considered that the child was trying to do something nice for the cat (maybe putting her on a comfy pillow for a nap...), but rather thought that she was just pestering her. It made me realize that we all really want to be appreciated for the things we do, for the people we are. We want to know that our efforts are not fruitless.

This need for appreciation makes me wonder if it truly is possible to be selfless. There are a multitude of teachings about the need for selfless compassion in the world. This is one of those things that is often times easier to read about than to enact. I believe that we are all capable of being compassionate, if we choose to be. I also believe that as we continue to live as compassionately as possible, at some point the idea that we are not appreciated enough creeps into our thinking. It makes some people bitter, makes them hold grudges and worse yet, makes them lose the desire to do anything nice for someone else without an unspoken expectation of getting something in return. This does nothing more than turn the perpetual wheel of disappointment.

Now I am not suggesting that you never get anything in return for doing something kind for someone/something else. You certainly get the self-satisfaction of knowing that you have made a difference in the world; even in a very small way sometimes. I think that self-satisfaction serves the purpose of re-energizing you to do more compassionate work. That should be its sole purpose. It should not be used to build up ego, or to hold over someones head as a way of saying "you owe me".

That said, I will still attempt to live my life as a Bodhisattva; one who serves others with compassion, in order to help them attain peace. It is a difficult challenge, as I also fall into the trap of feeling under-appreciated in certain circumstances. Although...I have an infinite number of lifetimes to get it right. So here's to getting it right in this lifetime (or in the next one...)!

Namaste',

Michelle

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Inner Voices...Do you hear them?

Well after many, many months I am back to my blog. I cannot believe how quickly three months flies by. (Even when I am stopping to breathe and live in the moment...) So many events have come and gone in these past months that I look back on them now as a blur. Some of the events were scary and not good at all. Some were extremely pleasant. I have watched as my children have grown more, my parents started aging more visibly and my own self continued to mature in ways I never imagined.

Self maturation happens whether you are looking or not. Self realization occurs when you stop, in the moment, and listen to your inner voice. No, I do not mean the little voice that tells you to buy the pair of shoes that you cannot afford, or the voice that tells you to ignore a call from the bill collector, but rather the inner voice that helps to guide you in your most personal of decisions. Only then can you really see how much you have matured and grown as an individual. The inner voice will clue you in to all the "learnings" that you have picked up and processed; just by living your life. Most of the time you don't even realize that you have learned these lessons until you allow your inner voice to be heard.

I am not suggesting that we always heed the lessons we have learned. We are, after all, still human and will make poor decisions along the way. My belief is that we are programmed to be presented with some lessons over and over again until we get them. This does not mean that we are "slow learners", but rather that we need the time to deeply process and allow these new behaviors and attitudes to become a true part of who we are.

Every time you stop and listen to your inner voice, you grow. You trust more. Your inner core is strong and is just waiting for you to engage it. So please stop and listen; and most of all, live. Live like your life depends on it. (No....I did not make that line up....I read it somewhere, but it just popped into my head...). I know too many people who don't actually live their lives; they tolerate their lives. This type of activity does nothing to enrich their own lives, or the lives of those around them. Everyone deserves to live a life of minimal worries, of strong security and of happiness. I know that is not always possible, but I do know that if people stepped away from their worries for a minute, there is beauty and grace staring right at them. They just need to recognize them. There is always hope. Even if it is only a sliver or glimmer of it. With all the news of tragedy in the world today, we are all just a heartbeat away from sorrow. Most of us feel this sorrow for people on the news that we have never even met. Let us not forget that these people were just living their lives. Just like us. And...coming out of their struggles, the world sees hope. I encourage you to see that hope in your own lives. No matter what obstacles you are trying to overcome.

My own experience is that if you open up and trust your core, the sometimes whispering inner voice, then your life will be richer for it. You will find friends in the most unusual of people; those that you might have overlooked before. You will find calmness and peace in times of challenge. Above all you will send out love to all around you, just by living your life with this level of integrity. I encourage you to try it and you will not be disappointed.

Namaste',

Michelle