What do you do when you’ve done all you can …it’s not just stand

There are moments in our lives when we just need to pause. Sometimes that is when we experience a significant loss. Houston and many parts of Texas are going through that now. The extreme devastation resulting from Hurricane Harvey is beyond anyone’s expectation. The meteorologists and historians don’t really have a historical reference for it. They are saying a once in a 500 year occurrence but that isn’t even a realistic reference. We just know this is something no one living has ever seen and we don’t have any record books that have anything like it.

Similar to the eclipse just one week ago, no matter who wants to debate global climate change, no one can debate the torrential rains hitting Houston and Texas right now. You don’t even have to say you agree with climate change, it doesn’t even matter. The evidence is clear with the five feet of rain. You don’t even have to say you agree with science, the eclipse happened. Stay in denial if you choose.

So, what do you do when you’ve done all you can in any situation where the evidence is overwhelming … you stand and let the evidence speak for itself. And then you decide what you can do, what you can control and take the next step forward.

This applies also when life throws us unexpected losses of loved ones and close friends. When you least imagined it could happen. Even months afterwards, when it is still hard to believe, so what do you do? Of course there is a gospel song that says you just stand. That’s hard to do because you don’t want to be paralyzed. There are moments like these where after you stand, you have to then move. Moving doesn’t mean forgetting but it does mean carrying yourself beyond the moment that was, to where you can breathe again because you must. Life is such that we are better off if we choose to keep living it. So, at times like those, after you’ve done all you can, sometimes the next thing to do is go forward with love for what was and sincere belief that all those we love would want us to be happy again.

In the September issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Martha Beck has an article on trusting yourself, your inner truth. She even discusses where to go next when we get things wrong and calming ourselves. It’s a short read and worth the introspection and quick five points that she offers: http://www.oprah.com/inspiration/martha-beck-growing-up. Some advice from her column is captured below.

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I can’t find the words to soothe the country with the floods going on in Houston or to make up for the lacks of words by the current occupant of the oval office. Many of us have outdone ourselves with postings and frustration about what is going in our country. My heart weeps for Houston, many impacted have this catastrophe only adding to the problems they already had. I will make donations to the American Red Cross and I hope you will too. I pray for those impacted and I hope you will too. I am honoring the life of a close friend this week whose loss is still felt one year later. None of these are times to give up. If you do give up, you lose out on what life can still offer.

Get every drop of life for as long as you can. Do more than just stand after you’ve done all you can. Take a step, then another. Respond to what life has given you. Soothe yourself as best you can.  Always take full responsibility for your own actions and truly decide to do better where you didn’t do your best. Stop giving yourself excuses for not doing your best, far too often that does happen (and yes I do speak from my own experience). But where life did things beyond your control, accept that you can only change you and can’t control other circumstances. Be authentic about what’s realistic, decide a course of action and get going. After you’ve done all you can, often you can do more than stand. You can take action.

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What kind of vessel are you?

I watched a short video on Sunday on an artist who does clay sculptures. She became fascinated about vessels and she primarily does sculptures of women as her model of strong vessels. When she really decided on where to focus her artistic craft of sculpting, she became persuaded by a few definitions of vessel: 1) a utensil used for holding contents; 2) an artery containing or conveying blood or other body fluids; 3) a craft for traveling; 4) a person regarded as a holder or receiver of something, e.g., a vessel of grace.  She sees women as vessels and her sculptures of women as fitting two modes: strong, powerful and enduring and secondly as also fragile and vulnerable. That sounded so fitting to me. When I look at a sculpture, I do see strength and power and endurance while at the same time I know that the sculpture is fragile and vulnerable and could break just by falling to the ground. Women and men are both strong and fragile too, just like vessels.

Vessels serve several purposes and therefore, my question this week is , what kind of vessel are you?

Are you holding contents? If you are, are your contents not being put to use or are you holding them for someone else? Are you an artery to convey things and do you willingly carry things through to others. One of the reasons that this artist has chosen to sculpt women is because they carry the bloodline of humanity. They are the vessels for all of us, for life. She enjoys being a sculptor because of the joy of creating something. She thinks about how her fingerprints are forever on that sculpture. She noted that scriptures also say that vessels are containers for the spirit so she sees her craft as a spiritual gift she gives to others.

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She talked about how as an artist she has found her voice for protesting how women are treated in the world. Her sculptures give her a chance to redeem that treatment and present women in a different way as vessels of grace. She believes artists have an important role in social change. This is something we see all around us today. And, we saw it in the 1960s and 1970s. We saw it with Dick Gregory and the silencing of his voice as he now leaves our human sight is a big reminder of how important artists, actors, comedians, etc. are to social change.

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Artists have a platform that can be used for their craft and that can be used to amplify what is going on in our communities. Artists are vessels of change. Dick Gregory never looked back on his decision to join the civil rights movement and force social change. He did it on a platform of nonviolence. Thank God for Dick Gregory being a vessel.

This sculpture artist said that people who perpetuate hateful things on others are banking on our silence. We need to recognize that and then ask ourselves, now what? Will we be a vessel to hold their silence or to carry social change.

On the week that we experienced a total solar eclipse, I thought of the definition of vessel as a craft for traveling. Did you get to see the solar eclipse? It was amazing. It was splendid to see how it traveled across the United States, across the North America continent, across the entire world. The solar eclipse was a vessel this week for unity, joy and splendor. It was moments of togetherness, people gathered all across the country to watch the sky literally from the west coast to the east coast.

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Bill Nye saw the eclipse this week as a moment of re-set for us. A moment for us to pause and see ourselves as vessels of the universe. And while it might seem very corny to think that way, we really are. We are somewhat living in strange times yet it was awe inspiring to watch the coverage on television for the eclipse. And even more so with the backdrop of what we had encountered for the previous week with the Charlottesville violence, the white supremacists trying to re-assert themselves, an occupant of the oval office floundering and not taking responsibility for the office he holds but rather fueling hate and yet the best of the country rising up and saying no to hate. And, we were stopped  on Monday to watch the universe take over with an eclipse. The current politics were literally eclipsed.

For a little while on Monday, the moon and the sun were vessels and we were carried through space and time. We were granted the grace of being together for something that we could not control or dispute. No one could argue about what happened, not Democrat or Republican or Independent. The solar eclipse was like a vessel, it crossed the entire country one second at a time making its way across the land quite indiscriminately without regard of anyone’s skin color or religion or sexual orientation for those who watched it. So, now what? What kind of vessel will you be now? We have a chance for a re-set. Choose your vessel.

How many sides are there? Right and wrong.

So, the current occupant of the oval office said there were many sides at fault. Really? Seriously? Actually, the rest of us know very well that this isn’t true. There are two sides, right and wrong. The current occupant of the oval office is on the wrong side. President Barack Obama was on the right side. President Obama’s eight years of excellence and brilliant accomplishments seem to have spurred this black-lash of coming out in the open to rebel against the browning of America.

The diversity that has been gradually occurring in the United States of America isn’t going to end and that is what is really upsetting white nationalists. They know their numbers are dwindling, not growing. That is also what is behind voter suppression efforts in so many states. But, none of what happened in Charlottesville or with the inauguration of Chump will stop the browning of America.

We can be angry about what is happening and go to the protests and I certainly want us to be activists and stand up for these outrageous acts. But, I also want us to use these moments to get informed so that we can build coalitions and movements that will outlast the rallies. I also want us to use these as teachable moments for our daughters, sons, granddaughters, grandsons, nieces, and nephews.

A close friend told me about a book in early 2016, “Brown is the New White,” by Steve Phillips. The premise was to describe how the demographic revolution was creating a new American majority of people of color. The author is a former classmate of hers (thanks Thia). Well Mr. Phillips updated his book after the 2016 election to include data from the election that was relevant to his study and confirmed the premise of his book’s core concepts. If you’re interested, this book could really inform you about why so many whites are scared of what they think are losing: http://thenewpress.com/books/brown-new-white

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There is another useful reference on why white nationalists have taken over the Republican party and how it became vulnerable to being taken over by Trump. An insightful article in The Washington Post discusses this book by Carol Anderson, a professor at Emory University on White Rage: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-white-rage-driving-our-racial-divide/2016/06/22/fbeec9fc-22a8-11e6-aa84-42391ba52c91_story.html?utm_term=.0f7b252ce1de

There is plenty of political debate on the white nationalist / KKK / neo-nazi / alt-right movement. I won’t repeat all of that here. There are plenty of articles on the inadequacies of the present occupant of the oval office. I won’t repeat all of that here. Instead, I do ask the question, how many sides are there? But, I ask it in a slightly different context.

When you talk to your sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces and nephews about 2017, what side were you on? Right or wrong? Is that a relative kind of question? Does it depend? With the issues as stark as we have seen in 2017, is it really all that relative? Are there many sides? I don’t think so. I think it’s very simple. In fact it’s probably more clear than it has ever been. The behavior of the current occupant of the oval office has made it very easy. It’s right or wrong.

For a while as I watched the coverage of the Charlottesville violence, I was consumed again with dismay. I am no longer though consumed with disappointment with the current occupant of the oval office. There is nothing new about him. We must focus on the people who are complicit. We must focus on getting them out of office. We must focus on voter registration and voter awareness and highlighting what state legislatures are doing on voter suppression. Those issues don’t have many sides. It’s either right or wrong.

White nationalists and KKK are simple issues. Right or wrong. I care not what Chump has to say. I can watch a re-run of Hillary Clinton’s speech from August 2016 describing how he had embraced the alt-right and its takeover of the Republican party and it completely foreshadowed what we see now. I can watch a re-run of President Obama’s speeches from the fall of 2016 and know that Chump had no intellect and no interest in learning. I can pull the editorial endorsements of countless newspapers that predicted how unfit he would be and know how accurate they were. There weren’t many sides to that. It was right or wrong. Republicans picked the wrong side.

Every day the people that are in this Republican Administration are doing things that are unraveling the progress of not just eight years but decades. There aren’t many sides to this. It’s right or wrong.

Stay woke and fight the good fight so you can say to your sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces and nephews that you were on the right side.

That’s all you need to focus on. The headlines will be written for the news of the day but what will you leave as your legacy? Right or wrong.

Girls will be girls, guys will be guys … playtime

Two weekends ago I got to enjoy a girls weekend with several college friends. We went out for drinks and dinner on the Friday. On Saturday, we met up and went to see the Girls Trip movie. That movie is hilarious. Okay, yes it is slightly raunchy but hilarious. Laughing is so good for the soul. Then on Sunday, we closed out the weekend by going to brunch. On each day, we had a new round of ladies that joined and that just added to the fun. We caught up on each others’ lives, what daughters & sons are doing, how we are managing to keep our sanity and even moments of talking about the challenges of life that have brought sadness. But, it was girls being girls, nurturing each other and capturing / creating some moments to exhale.

Last week was the final week of the latest Deepak & Oprah 21-day meditation and interestingly, one of the final guided meditations talked about the benefit of rest and play. Oprah remarked that just as we all have a teacher within us, each of us is an artist, a dreamer, a creator. Creative inspiration within us can flow when our lives are in flow.

“Giving yourself permission to rest, play, to let your mind and heart rejuvenate is a must in order to realize your greatest potential. When we let go, absorbed in a moment of pure play, the messages of the universe rise up to meet us. When we become open and receptive, we create pathways where there were once closed doors. There’s so much power in knowing that our lives are ours to co-create.” – Oprah

So, I had a girls weekend two weekends ago. This past weekend I was traveling out of town for a meeting and then for a family event. My hubby got to have a guys weekend. Three buddies that he grew up with in Virginia were able to come to visit over the weekend. Now, I wasn’t home so I can’t say for sure but based on what I heard through the grapevine (and the reporting from the neighbors), they had a fantastic time. Stayed up real late, sat out on the deck, some good grilling of steaks one night, barbecue ribs another night … a ride out to the Farmers Market nabbed some corn on the cob and fresh kale. They caught up on each others’ lives, truly got to enjoy moments together that were good for the soul deep down. It had been more than 15 years since they had all been together for fun, too often meeting up for a funeral in their hometown. This was fun, just what the doctor ordered and then some. It’s probably very good that it was just the guys in the house, some things are good for guys being guys.

Deepak says that rest and play are not luxuries:

“They rejuvenate us, they cultivate and inspire some of our best ideas. When we are relaxed, we let go and have fun, relax our sense of ego and open the door for the greatest spirit to flourish and find our true purpose of life. When we play, we lose all track of time. Our minds are free to roam and explore. As a society we tend to be sleep deprived, and sometimes are proud of it. But rest is important. Connecting in stillness and meditation and making sure we get adequate sleep will pave the way for creativity and spirituality to be fully present in our lives.”

The meeting that I attended (while the guys were being guys back at my house) happened to be in New Orleans at the same hotel where some of the Girls Trip movie was filmed, Hotel Monteleone. It was a special treat to see the Carousel Bar and lobby where Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett, Tiffany Haddish and Deborah Ayorinde (she played the character Simone, who was having the affair with the husband of Regina Hall. I just had to mention her name too because she is 2009 graduate of Howard University. HU, you know!)

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It’s summer time, get some rest and go play. As adults, it’s good to remember that girls being girls, guys being guys and having a weekend to truly chill out and play actually creates space for the mind to expand at other times. As Deepak says, “when this occurs, we are a field of infinite possibilities.”

I play. I create. I succeed.

Reconnect with your inner play. It’s play time.

Are you comfortable?

Just how comfortable are you? When we get so comfortable that we don’t want to rock the boat, that we are silent about the things that matter, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inferred that this would not be good: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” That is such a simple statement but it should lead us to asking ourselves the question, “Are you comfortable?”

Many of us have worked hard to be successful in our careers and in other parts of our lives. I remember my days of working in corporate America and wanting very much to be successful. It was a delicate balance to stay true to myself and still speak truth to power when necessary. I learned that being comfortable wasn’t always comfortable.

Yes, we have to maintain enough decorum to do our jobs well, be taken seriously, walk the line to keep our jobs, and ensure the paycheck keeps flowing. But, I think in most instances that won’t mean compromising on values. Generally, we can find ways to speak up professionally and tactfully when it really matters. Silence isn’t an option when you see something that is really wrong. I took risks when I was working, sometimes having to be very discreet in ensuring that truth was known when it really mattered. Hopefully the place where you work has an ombudsman or some position like that where you can report things without personal risk.

Outside of the workplace, and in these times politically and socially, silence is truly not an option. Many US Senators knew that the health care bill was horrible when it was being put up for a vote by Mitch McConnell on July 27th. Three Senators, including Lindsey Graham, who later voted in favor of the bill, held a press conference on the morning of the vote stating how horrible the bill was and that they didn’t want it to become law. Still, two of those three were willing to and did vote in favor of a bill that they prayed would not become law. There’s something fundamentally wrong with a leader, a politician taking that kind of action. Hypocrisy is not adequate to describe that, malpractice might be better.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins spoke up throughout the process along with the Democrat & Independent Senators. Silence was not an option for them because it mattered too much. They were joined by Senator John McCain. McCain didn’t necessarily vote no for the same reasons but he did decide that his silence mattered about the process so that factored in to his vote. Many of us called our Senators, even those we expected to vote in favor of the bill anyway. I am confident that we feel better that we did. I know that I can look at myself in the mirror a lot easier knowing that I made my voice heard.

Resistance won a major victory with the defeat of the Senate healthcare bill on July 27th. The core of what the Resistance Movement is about is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meant in the quote above. It is the core of the Women’s March in January. Silence is being complicit. We see that with the Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Issues and actions that Republicans found abhorrent in the past are all of sudden okay because they don’t want to speak out against them. Complicit, that’s what they are. Their lives have begun to end, hopefully at a minimum their political lives will end. Voters should not reward them.

I am still enjoying the 21-day guided meditation that I mentioned in last week’s blog from Deepak Chopra and Oprah and I see a similarity with one of the recent meditations that focused on how we create our destiny by our intentions. One of the ways to focus on things that matter is to be clear on our intentions.

Oprah recommends we plant the seed of intention, set our intentions to connect with infinite possibility so that we stay aligned with our true purpose. That’s not necessarily being comfortable but rather being willing to stand up, speak up and create a new reality because what is in front of you is no longer acceptable. It might mean speaking up and speaking out in order to open a door to your destiny, to something that is not the status quo but could be the divine reason for you being here.

“Every action, thought and feeling is motivated by an intention and that intention is a cause that exists as one with effect. Your intention is creating your reality. Each experience continues a sense of awe, wonder, knowledge and potential that there is an expansive abundance of the universe. When we stay present with strength and trust in ourselves, we stay aligned with our true power. ”

Deepak says, “stay awake to your moment-to-moment choices and choose with intention.” Our lives will be better for us living deliberately/intentionally rather than trying to live comfortably.

Truth

You get what you give … it’s karma baby

For the past week I have been listening to the latest Deepak Chopra & Oprah 21-day meditation experience, Desire and Destiny. In a blog earlier this year, I recommended one of their 21-day meditations. I have a difficult time meditating. I understand the benefit of it but I just have a tough time quieting my mind enough to do it well. I even have a designated place in my home for meditation. Still, I can’t get still enough to really meditate. So, Deepak & Oprah provide a guided meditation experience that helps me.

This particular round of 21-day meditation experience is focused on grounding us in realizing the basics of karma – you get what you give – and realizing that destiny is based on calmly accepting the abundance that God already intends for us. So for this week’s blog, I took some notes on the first seven days of the guided meditation notes.

Oprah describes karma  as a tool to create abundance and unlock our potential. She says the basic of what we’ve all heard, what you put out in the world is always coming back to you. If you don’t like what is manifesting in your life, you can change your choices and thereby change your karmic pattern. Be present and aware of your ability to make different choices. With each deliberate choice, you can feel your ability to make a difference in creating your life.

Deepak remarks include that our desires for our lives are dependent on our relationship and intention with karma. Every action generates a force of energy that is returned to us in kind … what we give, we receive. The key to using karma is to become aware of the choices we make in each moment. We can choose actions & thoughts that nurture us rather than hurt us. Setting an intention to make choices that bring us the best results / happiness.

When we live in equanimity we experience a deep inner balance and peace rather than good versus bad. We can then determine which action is likely to bring happiness and fulfillment to me and others around me. By cultivating equanimity each day, we wash away the karmic patterns from our trail of past practices and create a new vibration of life. We now realize that we are the masters of our own destiny. Meditation is a tool to reach these karmic thoughts / vibrations every day. So for me, I want to double-down on meditating. It’s probably easier than I make it. My mind wanders to a gazillion thoughts but I know that meditation will benefit me.

Oprah says that one of the benefits of meditation is that what you focus on expands. That is at the core of karma as well. She also reminds us it is our birth right as a human being to receive infinite blessings if we just pay attention to our life. Build life one moment at a time. What we offer comes back to us in ways far beyond our imagination. There are no limits to our blessings.

The fulfillment of our dreams and desires in life come from passion for who we are and for what we are giving out to the universe.

Without passion, life can feel stale. As we grow up we seem to see and accept messages that we aren’t deserving of a wonderful life but it really is our birthright. In fact one of my issues with religions is that they often give conditions for deserving God’s grace. I learned to believe a while ago that God loves us unconditionally and that means without condition … truly without conditions. None. I won’t debate that point because it is what I believe at my core, others can choose to accept man’s view but my inner being tells me God does love each of us without condition.

Ego and man place limits on our ability to experience joy. You are here to fulfill a unique purpose in the world. You were born to receive the abundance that God provides. You only need to say yes.

Oprah and Deepak comment that doesn’t mean that we don’t have “stand-down” moments when we think that life is throwing us curves. But even in devastating moments / perceived failures, we are still moving closer to who are meant to be. Every moment is a gift. We are always be guided to our next right step of our greatest truths. Trust in the generosity of the ever-present God. Every challenge opens a new door to a new possibility, bringing you closer to your destiny.

So, get quiet, become more observant. Release fears and resistance.

When things are flowing as expected, it seems great. But when there seems to be a gap, we could judge ourselves by what we see as our shortcomings. We get caught up in our thoughts and might misjudge the moments sent to teach us something. Every moment is a gift so we should shift our perception and see the opportunity for transformation. Even when you have a loss, you can later look back at that experience as the start of an opportunity that you would otherwise not have had.

Clear your fears to the place where your destiny rises. What are you most afraid of? What is holding you back in life? Release that which no longer serves you. Release your fears and find abundance, hope and possibility. A gift resides in every moment. What we give, we get. It’s karma baby.

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Foodies … it’s your time. On your mark, get set, go!

Summer time is eating time. The food, oh the food. I hope you took heed to some of my blogs from the spring and late winter about fitness and getting your body in shape because now is when you want to not worry about any of that. Now, it’s time for foodies to unite. Eat!

Vacations of course are wonderful. But whether you are on vacation or staycation or not going anywhere at all, summer is for foodies. Farmers markets are bursting with bounties of peaches, blueberries, blackberries, squash, watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, tomatoes, butter beans, pink-eye peas, bell peppers, sweet silver queen corn and on and on. I love going to our state Farmers Market this time of year (actually I love going all year). Starting last summer, I began going to pick your own blueberry and blackberry farms. Last week I picked blueberries and blackberries … oh how sweet!

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If you have a farm to table restaurant in your area, summer is a great time to eat there. If you are near a body of fishing water, get the catch of the day and pair it with some fresh vegetables from the garden, cornbread, silver queen corn on the cob and oh my, delicious.

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Some of my favorite memories of summer are sitting on the front porch and eating watermelon. There was guy in St. Pete that we nicknamed the Watermelon Man because he would drive through our neighborhood in the summer in his pick up truck, with it loaded down with watermelons. When I saw him, I would go running into the house to tell Mommy that the Watermelon Man was here, could we please, please buy a watermelon! Nowadays, I go out to the Farmers Market and pick a watermelon, using all of the scientific methods included in the articles that I have read. But of course, it’s like a box of chocolates, you never know until you open it what you will get. That’s part of what comes along with it. Grab one and go for it.

Summer veggies are plentiful. As I walked the Farmers Market last week, the sights of them all were just awesome. Who couldn’t find something they loved. You can even find something you don’t have to cook. Make a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, vinegar, salt & pepper … no cooking necessary. Even with cooking, the vegetables are so fresh that you don’t need to cook them much, in fact you don’t want to cook them much to keep the taste sweet and fresh. Just a little bit of seasoning and herbs added, a light touch of butter or olive oil. Although my hubby is a big meat eater, during the summer he eats a lot of fruit and vegetables (willingly, I might add) because they are so plentiful, so fresh, so awesomely yummy.

Now for the grilling. Well, there is a plethora of what can be done on a grill. Some folks know how to work magic on a grill. My husband grills steaks that don’t need steak sauce. Add a summer salad, a cob of corn and you’ve got an easy summer meal. He can take a little more time and barbecue a rack of ribs with a special barbecue sauce. I can’t tell you what is in the sauce because then we would have to eliminate you. Don’t even bother with a fork & knife, these ribs are best eaten with fingers. For me, he grills steelhead trout or wild salmon or grouper or swordfish. Moist, seasoned well and delish! With some butter beans or baked beans and a roll … that’s a summer dinner for any foodie.

Is your mouth watering yet?

I am okay with going to the grocery store but in the summer time, find your nearest farmers market or corner farm stand. Those are the places to enjoy that you don’t have all year round. Cook up something simple for dinner tonight. Sit out on your deck or front porch, feel the summer breeze and chill with the taste that only summer provides.