Who are you? Are you in your flow?

When you are in the flow of who you are, it’s easy to know who you are. That sounds circuitous but think about it a minute. When you know who you are, you are in a flow. Flow is living with what happens and involves a trust with life and being comfortable with who you are in the present moment. You can be as flexible as life itself when you go with the flow.

The full embrace of our most authentic selves feels a lot like being in the flow. Fighting against the flow feels like being out of sync with who we are, who we are so supposed to be. The meditation for the start of this week in the 21-day series that I am following is  “Being in the flow is effortless.” Much of my thoughts for my blog this week are inspired by the meditations from the past several days about being in the flow and how that relates to being ourselves.

Deepak and Oprah talk about how we fall off course when our false self creeps in, we are no longer in our flow. So that is when you need to change direction and find our flow. Connect to the source that is. Doing this secures a clear flow and that flow leads to a feeling of fullness, of contentment in the present. Contentment builds a foundation for being who you are and gratitude for who you are.

I think the absence of knowing who we are is what we see with public figures who are in the news these days for all the wrong reasons. Public figures who are being called out for sexual misconduct have totally lost who they are. They are not in their flow and they use their power to take advantage of others. If they understood the essence of who they were, they would know those behaviors are wrong. I do believe though in circle of life, in karma and in the universe taking & returning what is due. At some point, in some way, in this lifetime or in another, each will experience what they have done to another. You will get what you give, the flow of life will see to it eventually, that can only be resisted up to a point.

Life is better in the flow. Being who we are gives us the chance to really be open to an expanded state of awareness too. When someone is not self-aware, they don’t see their mistakes and they don’t care how their actions impact others. They end up with an inflated sense of self that doesn’t serve them well and it certainly doesn’t serve anyone else around them well. Can’t you tell when someone isn’t being their authentic self?

 

Nowadays, we hear talk of The Resistance. The Resistance is the political movement keeping us awake to the catastrophe of current presidency and Congress. A resistance disrupts a flow. When a flow is disrupted, the life force that courses through will not be maintained. That’s the point of The Resistance Movement, to disrupt this unauthentic Administration.

Kind 20171027_115304

Instead, we saw a round of elections throughout the country on November 7th that were a reflection of authentic selves resuming their power. The cycle of life / karma / the force of good / the source resurfaced and came back in flow.  I believe that when we know who we are, this too will happen for us, we can get back in flow even if we were momentarily out of flow.

Our lives are meant to be in flow. Rivers are meant to flow, they will keep going and find a way to flow over, around or through obstacles. Resistance might periodically pop up in our lives but remind yourself to be in flow.  Remind yourself that who you are is better when you are in the flow. Our authentic self is flow.

Water flow 20171014_101149

Advertisements

Life comes and yes it goes …

This time of year, I wait and watch the leaves as they begin their ritual of turning colors. I think it’s such a pretty time of year. Growing up in Florida, I didn’t see a lot of color change in autumn. As a child I used to read about leaves changing colors but I didn’t get to actually see much of it. Florida kind of looked the same all year round … sunny and green. Now, living in North Carolina, I really get to see the changes of the seasons and the changes of life that come and go and so I have a new appreciation for it all.

20161130_104726

I have also associated autumn and the changes of the seasons with understanding life’s cycles. Life comes and life goes. When the seasons change, do you do anything to mark the change? When our kids were younger, I decorated the house a little for the start of each season. I still have a storage bin for each of the seasons with the decorations for that particular season. I enjoyed bringing in a little element of the outdoor season into the house. (And of course, the Christmas season has its own full set of decorations with many storage bins.) But, autumn does something else for me regarding the cycle of life. It reminds me to let go. There are times when it’s just good to let go of baggage. Let go of burdens, let go of what no longer serves you, lighten the load of life. Most of us carry around worries and concerns that weigh on us. Autumn could be a time to shed them just like the trees shed their leaves. Life comes and life goes.

As the trees let go of their leaves, the trees and nature know that they can let go and they don’t worry. We can learn so much from nature. Can you imagine a tree worrying about whether its leaves will return and trying to hold on to them? Nope, that’s not how it works. Autumn is a reminder to me that life’s cycle includes letting go and trusting that what needs to return will in its own due time.

As we watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, we are reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been a burden. All the religious traditions pay tribute to such acts of relinquishment. Fall is the right time to practice getting out of the way and letting Spirit take charge of our lives.

In Kinds of Power James Hillman, the elder statesman of contemporary depth psychology, challenges us to learn from others about this: “For what the actor tries to achieve on stage is to ‘get out of the way’ so that the character he or she is portraying can come fully out. So, too, the writer and the painter; they have to get out of the way of the flow of the work onto the paper and the canvas.”

Autumn also reminds that everything can change, nothing really stays the same. We have to prepare ourselves for the fleeting nature of life itself so enjoy the moments. Unfortunately, we received another reminder of this with the shooting at the small church in Texas on this past Sunday. Even without the debate about gun control, we can’t get away from the fact that life comes and life goes every day. The victims of this tragedy ranged from 18 months old to 77 years old. In ways other than mass shootings, life begins and ends every day, some where. We can choose to be grateful for the moments we have, not try to hold on too tight, but trust in the process of life.

The seasons will surely keep changing, they have for a very long time. Life comes and life goes. Leaves turn colors and fall. New leaves will sprout in the spring and a new season will come. Life is a cycle. I love seeing the changes and look forward to the seasons, knowing that I can take cues from nature and incorporate its lessons into my own life. I can lift some of my worries and trust that things will work out as they are supposed to. You know the saying, let go and let God. I think the trees might have invented that.

Nature holds a lot of wisdom for us in the most unsuspecting ways. Life comes and yes, life goes. Trust that it will.

20171030_063624

Making every moment matter

“Time is really about fulfillment. Using your time well comes down to how fulfilled you are in the present moment. When we feel content and centered inside, everything we do is more effective, efficient, and satisfying.

The above is a quote from the newest 21-day meditation from Oprah and Deepak Chopra. If you’ve read some of my blogs earlier in 2017, you are familiar with my references to the periodic free 21-day guided meditations provided jointly by Oprah and Deepak Chopra. A new series started this week with the title, “Making every moment matter.” here’s  a link if you want to check it out: https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience)

When life gives us health crises or unexpected losses, we are certain to realize that every moment matters. Those are the times when it comes through loud and clear. Live each day as though as it really does matter. And similarly, when something is going on, ask yourself, five years from now, will this really matter? If it isn’t something that would really matter five years from now, maybe it isn’t worth getting too stressed out about. Instead make the moments of now count for what they bring because none of them can be recaptured.

In this new 21-day meditation, Oprah encourages us to release the mighty to-do list and let go of the angst. Instead, live in the moment and cherish the seconds of each day. “Breathe in the depth of each moment until the depth of time is lifted.”

Oprah says that busy-ness is a trap to “the check-off-the list” and sometimes becomes a badge of honor while life spins out of control. It’s up to us to determine what matters each moment and allow space in each day for what does matter most.

An important person in my family recently went through surgery and what mattered most was being there for those moments. I could not imagine being anywhere else. Nothing else warranted my attention as much as that person knowing I was there, but just as much for me to actually be there.

People talk about what is important to them. But, take a look at how you actually spend your time. Are you actually spending time on / with what you say is important to you? Many are not. People say their family is the most important priority to them but their time spent doesn’t reflect that. And, I don’t mean the time you can’t control, like work. Other than work, where are you and what are you choosing to do. Time is the great equalizer, I have talked about that before in a previous blog. But this time, my focus is truly on putting our time where we say our priorities are.

I observe a lot of people not spending time with who they say mean the most to them. Children will grow up and those days can’t ever be recaptured. And even when they’re off to college or in their young adult years, they deserve the time of parents, aunts and uncles, godparents and grandparents. Put your time where you say your priority is. Don’t just wait for them to contact you either. If they matter, then the moments spent with them matter.

If this were your last week, your last day on this earth … would you have wanted to say you spent it somewhere or with someone?

sunrise st pete 20171015_070730

Deepak Chopra says that this is a matter of time management. Look inward. How you relate to time determines your relationship with time and your satisfaction with a life well spent. Fulfillment is what life is about. Instead of being about scheduling, it’s about a state of awareness to make time your ally. The question isn’t where did the time go, it’s where did the opportunities go. This is an inner choice, not the choice of time running out.

You can feel stressed or relaxed. Many of us feel rushed. The difference between a good day and a bad day is the inner world of the person having it.  Look inward. What’s important isn’t the hours and minutes, but how you make the most of your time.

The best time of our life is now. Where did your time go today? Are you grateful to yourself for how you spent it? Did your day reflect what you say your priorities are? Make the most of the moment. Make the moments matter the most. The best time of our life is now, actually the only time of our life is now. Make it matter.

make every moment matter_quote_s

 

Who loves ya baby?

There’s a lot of angst and anxiety happening around us these days. So, with all of this going on, it’s nice to have moments when you feel loved. Nice to be able to chill. Nice to be able to let the cares of the world fade away for a couple days and be with some folks in an environment where you just feel nothing but love and fun. Well, that is what a homecoming at an HBCU feels like. I didn’t actually get to go to my alma mater’s homecoming this past weekend but I felt the love from the postings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. When you want to know who loves ya baby, head to an HBCU. That’s one of the purposes they serve. Not only will you get a solid education and the courage to feel comfortable in your own skin, you will feel loved.

22554791_10154226587577706_8322111396422026516_n

Two weeks before that, my cousin attended her homecoming at NC A&T and she felt the love too.

22221654_10215101060342534_4819788875192338913_n

I am not trying to imply that going to other colleges is void of those feelings. They may indeed have it. I hope they do. But of this I know, there is a oneness, a feeling of belonging and comradery that far outlives the years of college after attending an HBCU. And homecoming is literally what it says, coming home. It is a reunion, it’s a football game for sure, it’s tailgate party, it’s concerts, it’s food, it’s late night parties, it’s hanging out on the yard /campus, it’s seeing classmates you haven’t seen in years, it’s seeing folks who love you baby!

22780698_1703391756345732_1592666821076514045_n  22788700_10209715812679987_25560045889325984_n

This is the season for homecomings at college and many churches. And amazingly, there are barely two months left in the year. I saw the first Christmas commercial on television last week, in October. The K-Mart and Costco near me already have Christmas decorations up in the store. The holiday season will be in full swing before we know it. When that happens, it could be easy to lose focus on what I see as the best part of this coming time of year… who loves ya baby: family and friends.

Call that friend that you haven’t talked to in a long time. Actually pull out a note card or buy a greeting card and do a handwritten note to friend or relative that says you’re thinking about them. College homecomings and church homecomings are a blast and I love going to them. But, those events don’t have to be the only time we reach out to folks. It’s possible that someone may not be there at next year’s homecoming. The benefit of HBCUs is lifelong friendships and we can take the initiative to stay in touch more often than once a year. And church homecomings can be treated similarly.

 

22365394_10159301904665265_4349413877567317178_n       22688322_1863772206971814_7475000552971202415_n

Homecomings are so much fun, the experience and the moments linger for days and days. Just think about how great it will feel to not wait until next year to be sure that friend knows you love them as a friend and care about how they are doing all year long.

22788779_10155547163737911_2927700140959664300_n

Life is fleeting. We are love and are meant to love. Let’s remember who loves us and who we love … and more importantly, let them know more than once a year.

How ya feeling?

October is of course breast cancer awareness month. On Saturday morning while I was back in my hometown, I went out for a jog/walk and just happened upon a breast cancer walk. My timing was perfect. I was enjoying the walk along the waterfront in perfect temperatures, a light breeze, beautiful sights of yachts, boats, sailboats, joggers, walkers, and doggies and then I noticed a sea of pink moving in one direction.

20171014_081555  20171014_082104

I tagged along with the breast cancer walk and actually ended up walking longer than what I usually do most mornings at home. I got lost in the moments and enjoyed the flow.

Resized_image_1

Also this week, I had my annual physical exam with my doctor and it was another reminder about taking care of myself, doing monthly breast self-exams and living in ways to maintain good health. So this week I am asking, how are you doing? How are you feeling? Are you feeling alright?  We need to be sure we are doing what we should be doing for our good health.

During my annual exam, I had the routine blood tests, had my blood pressure checked, had an EKG, was scheduled for a mammogram and asked about getting a flu shot and all of that stuff. My weight was good, just two pounds different from last year’s exam (must have been that cake from the Outer Banks vacation).  So, my point is that we all need to focus on how we are feeling. Women and men can get breast cancer so this is a time for everyone to think about breast cancer, not just women. Did you know Richard Roundtree (the actor who played Shaft and who now is the father character on Being Mary Jane) had breast cancer? So, yes men can get it too.   Breast Cancer Awareness Month

What are you doing to stay in good physical shape to feel good? One of my cousins was challenged a year ago by a co-worker who just happened to ask her what did she do to keep in shape. Now, she is in her late 50’s like me. She said she wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or shocked by him asking this. Then, he looks at her and says, “Girl, what you need is to be on a bike.” For the past year, I started seeing all of these Facebook postings of her biking and I was wondering where this had come from. I have known her all of her life and I didn’t remember knowing she had an interest in biking. She took on the challenge her co-worker gave and she became a biker.

Gabby 21751787_1553645687991539_4464311140949030630_n

This past weekend, she just completed her first century ride: she did a 100 mile bike ride.  One more proof point that it’s never too late to start a healthy habit.

Gabby 22449963_1583085611714213_9223029996148364350_n

My younger brother has been a biker for many years. He literally bikes all over the country and the world. He has a portable, fold up bike that he puts in a backpack and he just carries it on his flights to Greece or Italy or England. Instead of renting a car or taking a taxi when he arrives in those countries or even in Utah or New York, he just pulls out his bike, reassembles it and hits the streets biking. He bikes at home through the streets of Berkley and Oakland too.

So, what are you doing to take care of yourself. How are you feeling? Are you putting yourself on your appointment calendar each week to schedule time to take care of your body? Are you ready for your next annual physical exam? If the numbers that will come back from your test results aren’t better than they were last year, you should have a plan. Whether you are insulted or shocked when the doctor gives you the data, you already know how you feel. You already know what the scale says. You already know how your clothes feel as compared to last year at this time so get going on doing something.

I had the fortune to attend my 40th high school reunion this past weekend in my hometown. I can tell you that nothing felt better than going there knowing that I felt healthy and felt good physically 40 years later. I could join in the fun completely. I laughed hard and joyfully in catching up with classmates, many of whom I had not seen since graduation 40 years ago or since I attended the 20th reunion. The paths we have taken since 1977 have varied significantly. A few of our classmates are deceased and several others could not attend the reunion. But for those of who were there, we had a great time.

When you get ready for the 40th or the 50th, you really want to be feeling good so you can enjoy it. So, taking care of your health comes in handy.

22448117_10211972620328574_6800990764871704126_n20171014_201842

 

 

 

With the second half of this month, focus on how you are feeling and do yourself the favor of being well by taking the right steps. Some people don’t have those options. We are the lucky ones and we can make good choices. Park a little further away from the building and walk a few extra steps. Pass on that third slice of pizza. Get up 30 minutes earlier in the morning and get in a walk, it’s a great way to start your day and clear your mind too.

Just a few simple actions can make a difference in how you feel when you get to the finish line.20171014_082726.jpg

 

 

And the prize goes to you for making a bad decision

The Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to someone who did studies on why people make bad decisions. Imagine that. I can just hear my father saying why in the world did someone need to do a study on that. And I can see my grandmother shaking her head at the nonsense of the Nobel Prize Committee even putting this under consideration, let alone awarding the prize for it. To be fair, you should probably read the article in The Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/10/09/american-professor-wins-nobel-prize-in-economics-for-trying-to-understand-irrational-human-behavior/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_nobel-620am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.29e078db0718

But, the premise of University of Chicago Professor Richard Thaler was to understand the behavioral economics on how we make decisions, particularly bad decisions. He has made a career of looking at people’s poor choices: “We Americans eat too much, take on too much debt, save too little and put off anything mildly unpleasant as long as possible,” Thaler wrote in 2011.

Instant gratification apparently is much more important to us. “Humans prefer instant gratification right now, even if they know that being patient would yield them more money or a better life down the road, Thaler found.” Now it is hard to argue with that truth. I know it and you surely must know it too. Professor Thaler integrates economics and psychology. What a novel concept.

We can see how this is playing out right now even in the grand introduction of the tax cut debate in Congress. Republicans know very well that their proposal will cause the deficit to balloon. But, their donors and backers are jawing at them to give them tax cuts and to deliver on something. They also look like they don’t how to get anything done because they haven’t been able to get anything significant passed since the start of 2017 even though they control Congress and the White House. They prefer instant gratification of a tax plan passed at the expense of increased deficits. They only have a conscience when it’s convenient anyway.

But back to the rest of us. Why is it that we make bad decisions when we really do know better? In the New York Times article about his Nobel Prize, the following commentary gives great insight:

Mainstream economics was built on the simplifying assumption that people behave rationally. Economists understood this was not literally true, but they argued that it was close enough.

Professor Thaler has played a central role in pushing economists away from that assumption. He did not simply argue that humans are irrational, which has always been obvious but is not particularly helpful. Rather, he showed that people depart from rationality in consistent ways, so that their behavior can still be anticipated and modeled.

I don’t totally know the analysis of why I make bad decisions. I do know that when I eat a piece of cake or candy that I shouldn’t have eaten, I almost instantly regret it. I also know that when I spend money on something that I shouldn’t have spent money on, I usually am quick to regret having done it. There have been many times when I returned something that I knew was a waste of money. And yes there are times when I gave in to buying something for one of our kids when I wished I hadn’t. Economics and psychology, oh how I wish I could master them in my own life. But, we live and learn. Don’t let bad decisions today be a lifetime of bad decisions tomorrow.

Professor Thaler won the Nobel Prize because he applied his theory to public policy not just to personal economic policy. I think some politicians should read his studies too. He wrote a book in 2008 covering many of this theories, Nudge.

Nudge book

It seems that everyone except Libertarians thought the book was good. Libertarians didn’t think government should have a role in helping people to make good decisions. To that I say, have they read the constitution lately?

There’s another book, Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, that is somewhat related to this topic of decision making.

Blink

A review of Blink from http://www.BookBrowse describes it as:

Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant – in the blink of an eye – that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work – in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?

In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of “blink”: the election of Warren Harding; “New Coke”; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police. Blink reveals that great decision makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing” – filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology and displaying all of the brilliance that made The Tipping Point a classic, Blink changes the way you understand every decision you make. Never again will you think about thinking the same way.

Malcolm Gladwell has written several books and is a fantastic writer on the cutting edge of thinking. In the blink of an eye we can make a good decision or a bad decision. That decision can result in instant gratification or longer term success. You decide which prize you get.

Professor Thaler: “The best way to sharpen your skills is to play against the best.”

(in other words … if you want to get better at making decisions, make good decisions.)

What are you storing?

I was talking with a friend this weekend as we were driving to Top Sail Beach about how many storage places we were passing by. Once we got off the interstate and were on local highways and routes, almost every street or every other street had a storage facility. It became ridiculous that we saw so many. What added to the craziness is that we drove by several empty lots and saw signs that said, “coming soon new storage facility.” That was nuts!

I remembered hearing a comedian make a joke about how people were living in bigger houses than 20 years ago but they also had storage units. So, what the heck does everyone have in storage? Do you have a storage unit? If you do, do you actually know everything that is in it? Do you use anything that is in it? Do you need anything that is in it? Are you storing things that you will ever actually use again? Have you given thought to what our use of storage units says about us?

Storage-Units

So my blog this week gives some thoughts about these storage units and what they might represent about our lives. Re-assessing our storage units, what’s in those storage units, what we are using them for, what’s in our houses, etc., might give us a chance to breathe some fresh air into our homes and our lives.

If you have a house that is bigger than the house you grew up in but you still have a storage unit, maybe it’s a good idea to re-think how our parents got along without a storage unit but we “need” one. Have we become so focused on acquiring things that having stuff has taken us over. Maybe we have more than we really need to have. It’s possible, and likely, that we could get along just fine with a little less and not need that storage unit. Plan a visit to your storage unit. Take an inventory of what is in it. Throw out what you haven’t looked at in the past 12-18 months, if you haven’t looked at it in that time period … out of sight, out of mind — ditch it.

If you have family mementos in the storage unit, share them with other family members instead of just keeping them in the unit gathering dust. Maybe your daughter or son or sibling would enjoy having that vase from your grandmother. Maybe that rocking chair can be refinished and put in the den. The modern furniture from Target has nothing on the well-built furnishings from the good old days.

Plan a weekend to go through your house and take an inventory of each room, particularly your closets. Are you using all the things in there? Have you added “stuff” that you thought you would use but you aren’t using. Did you put things in storage as you bought new things but the new things aren’t being used either?

In some ways, we’ve become a material society and we acquire new stuff all the time. These habits seem to encourage us to move other things to storage units. Once items get to the storage units, it’s so easy to be forgotten and just take up the storage space. How much money is being spent on your storage unit? I had a family member who was paying $78 each month for three years for a storage unit that wasn’t visited or opened for three years. If you don’t even look at what is in a storage unit for three years, it seems like you might have been able to do without those items. Just maybe. And for the grand total of $2,808 a company had the honor of holding those items. What I could have done with almost $3,000! And once the storage unit was cleaned out, about three-fourths of it went to the Salvation Army. As President Obama says, “come on Man!”

What are you holding on to in your life that you can get rid of? Are you storing dreams and wishes of what you wanted to do but haven’t yet?

wishes

Tomorrow is not promised. If you are storing wishes, take a look at those wishes and decide what you should be doing instead of just wishing for something to have or do. The mass shooting in Las Vegas is horrific and it serves as a reminder to hug the ones we love and live each day without storing or holding on to dreams and wishes. Storage is not for things that don’t serve us well, instead get rid of them. There’s little value to letting them gather dust or spending the money on the storage unit. Instead, give away what is in those storage units to someone who can use those items. Similarly, there’s little value to storing our dreams and wishes when tomorrow might not come. Instead, do today what you’ve been wishing and dreaming about.

One thing that I have thought as I saw the storage facilities that I drove by, how many of those have useless things in them stored by people with huge houses? Are we living large and simultaneously storing large? Hmmm. When I think about it that way, it doesn’t make sense to me.

I have things that I said I would do in retirement and I need to dust off that list and stop storing that list too. Some of our dreams and wishes are in storage. The Las Vegas shooting and the loss of life of 59 people is tough for those families. I can honor them by getting my list out of storage and going on. I can re-do my to-do and start acting on it. What are you storing? Stop storing, instead: wake up, kick ass, sleep and repeat.