If necessary, speak …maybe in love language

The first part of the title for my blog this week paraphrases a quote that has been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and the second part refers to a book, The Five Love Languages.

People shall know you by your deeds, your actions. St. Francis of Assisi was quoted to say, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” On Sunday, I attended two church services. One was for a friend who was a lifelong Catholic who had decided to join an Episcopal church. During the sermon, the Episcopal priest used the words, “if necessary, speak” as he talked to the congregation about how they could live out their lives in way that would serve others. Spend time doing and let your deeds be what others know of you. Only after that, only if that can’t be seen, only if that is not clear, only if necessary … speak.

How are you living your life? If you have to tell somebody what you’ve done, hmm. If others instead can see the evidence of what you have done, that is meaningful. Do your deeds and let them speak for you.

The bestowing of the Profile in Courage Award to President Barack Obama is to me a beautiful example of words not being necessary. President Obama’s eight years as President and even his professional life before his presidency are full of so many accomplishments that words are not needed. For those who are okay with truth, it’s pretty easy to be comfortable with that. For those who try to obscure the truth, they are the ones who might be critical. I thought it would be interesting to find out what this Award is about. Here is an excerpt from their website:

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award was created in 1989 by members of President Kennedy’s family to honor President John F. Kennedy and to recognize and celebrate the quality of political courage that he admired most.

The award recognizes a public official (or officials) at the federal, state or local level whose actions demonstrate the qualities of politically courageous leadership in the spirit of Profiles in Courage, President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer prize-winning book, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. Senators who risked their careers by embracing unpopular positions for the greater good.

The eligibility criteria gives this additional information: “Today, elected officials are too often captives to opinion polls, reluctant to act in the broader public interest when it means taking unpopular courses of action or offending powerful groups. The Profile in Courage Award honors modern-day elected officials who govern for the greater good, even when it is not in their own interest to do so. The award celebrates individuals who choose the public interest over partisanship – who do what is right, rather than what is expedient.”

If you heard Jack Schlossberg (JFK’s grandson) give the introduction of President Obama, you know that this award is well deserved. If you heard President Obama’s acceptance remarks, you know that even in his humble recognition for receiving the award, he challenged the current Congress to do what is right, to choose the public interest over partisanship. If this Congress focuses on doing, they won’t have to speak.

If they do have to speak, I hope they speak in one of the five love languages. While I remember hearing about the book, The Five Love Languages, I have not read it. (here is a link to a website about it: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/) The five love languages are: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch.

During the second church service that I attended on Sunday, for the baptism of a newborn of a cousin, the minister spoke about this book. The minister said she has all of the couples for whom she is planning to conduct marriages read the book. She believes relationships boil down to what you do, not what you say. How you show up and who you show up for. It’s not what you say you are going to do but your actions really speak for you. She has the couples do an assessment test of the five love languages so each person knows what is meaningful to the other. What usually ranks at the top is “quality time.”

The profile in courage in our personal relationships comes in being there for who we say is important to us. In these cases, if necessary … speak. Otherwise, your presence is what matters. The minister gave two questions to the congregation: 1) When have you showed up for someone? 2) When has someone showed up for you? In today’s world, social media allows a lot of us to connect in many ways but are we actually connecting? Are we really giving quality time to the people who mean the most to us. Are we relying on words and speaking instead of what St. Francis of Assisi said. Are we giving of ourselves where it matters most? Are we a profile in courage? I wondered about that as I sat in both of those church services on Sunday and again as I watched the JFK Profile in Courage Award ceremony for President Obama.

It might seem like these aren’t related but our personal relationships and our chance to make a difference in our communities are integral to who we say we are. Do our actions match who we say we are? Are we able to look in the mirror and say we are our own profile in courage? Do we have to explain what we are doing because it’s not evident? When was the last time you showed up for someone and gave quality time without being asked?

Your values are reflected in what you do not what you say. Only if necessary, use words.

Shove it!

Springtime is a good time to just shove it. I mean really. That can apply to lots of things. Of course the politics of the day is a reason to say shove it but I am referring to doing some spring cleaning and decluttering. How often do you add things without taking away? This is the last week of April so actually spring is one-third gone already. The kids have finished their elementary, middle school and high school spring breaks. Colleges have completed their spring breaks and are moving quickly toward the time-honored processes for exams and graduations.

Before you know it, we will be hearing about commencement announcements, various commencement speakers and all of the pomp & circumstances that go with college graduations. I might have missed it in the news but I haven’t heard of any colleges extending an invitation to the current occupant of the oval office to be their commencement speaker. I guess some folks are telling him to shove it.

Anyway, my point is that before all of the end of spring graduation frenzy gets going, this is a good time to look within your home and your life and decide what you need to say “shove it” to. If you were a fan of Oprah’s television show, you may remember seeing one of her regulars, Peter Walsh. He often appeared with tips on decluttering. Read more: http://www.oprah.com/home/peter-walsh-strategies-for-getting-rid-of-clutter#ixzz4fD2fnykb You can apply Peter’s techniques to every room of your house.

All the stuff you own will fit into one of three categories:
1. Memory Items: treasures, trinkets, forgotten items, malignant items
2. I-Might-Need-It Items (about 80% of what’s in your home will probably be this)
3. Trash/Recycling (probably 15% of what’s in your home)

Peter Walsh says, “Treasures represent about 5 percent of the objects you own, or even less. The things that neither you nor anyone else needs to keep will represent, I suspect, about 15 percent of the stuff in your home.”

Also, decluttering at home can be the opening to having more: Living with less can help us resist the urge to splurge: A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that being in cluttered environments decreases self-control, resulting in a greater likelihood of impulsive spending. Read more: http://www.oprah.com/money/farnoosh-torabi-how-to-declutter-paperwork-and-make-money_1#ixzz4fDHO5VSk

Do you want to make some money from your decluttering? Your dusty ski jacket and 2010 iPad may evoke great memories, but ask yourself, “Does this item serve me today?” Will I use it within the next year? If yes, then it stays. But if the item has gone unused for longer than a year, it might be time to cash in. Luckily, these sites make resale a breeze:

1. Used iPhones: Gazelle.com The site will send you a prepaid shipping label, inspect the gadget, and pay you for your device. At the end of last year, an iPhone 6s in good condition fetched an average of $245.

2. Other electronics:NextWorth.com Ship GoPros, laptops, or wearable tech to NextWorth and get cash in return. Says CEO David Chen, “Even if a product is broken, it can see strong trade-in value.”

3. Designer clothing: Tradesy.com List high-fashion duds, and when you land a buyer, Tradesy will send a box and shipping label (and take a commission off the top).

4.Other clothing: ThredUp.com The site sends a bag with a prepaid shipping label; fill it with good-condition clothing and accessories, then ship it back. ThredUp lists items for you, and you earn a percentage of the sale price.

So, let this last week of April be a week to declutter your house. Now, how about the other part of you to clean up: the internal clutter. “Unless you’re happy with yourself, you won’t be happy with what you do.” Shove out the negative views about yourself. No amount of happy thoughts of spring can bring in happiness if you are holding over thoughts that don’t serve who you are now. I picked up a book that I have had for a while, Happiness Now!, by Robert Holden. He had several appearances on Oprah’s show as well. The book was published in 1998 and revised in 2007 but still very current in its concepts.

Holden’s book has a chapter on Being Good Enough that focuses on getting rid of telling yourself bad messages about not being good enough. Things like demanding perfection, thinking you aren’t pretty enough, not intelligent enough, not successful enough, etc. At the end of that chapter, he offers a Forgiveness Meditation used in The Happiness Project. This meditation is a way to truly shove out some obstacles to happiness.

There is another chapter on Practicing Acceptance. In this chapter, he discusses how guilt loads us down and keeps us from happiness, “guilt is the belief that you do not deserve happiness.” This belief is learned, it is not natural and if we believe that God loves us unconditionally … even though religions give us double-speak on this … then the intention is love & happiness, not the burden of guilt.

Spring into happiness by shoving out guilt, by practicing acceptance of you. There is no price for happiness. There is no admission required for it. Actually, it’s free and I believe it is intended for all of us. That doesn’t mean it’s easy but it isn’t as hard as some would have us believe either. It’s a choice, that’s what my mother always told me. It is not the circumstances that dictate happiness, it our decision to be happy no matter what the circumstances are. Just like with the clutter that you were going through … one man’s trash is another’s treasure. One person can choose to be happy under circumstances that another would see as miserable.

This week, I want you to shove out those thoughts. Self-acceptance and inner peace need space to grow. You have to get rid of thoughts of unworthiness, thoughts of last year’s failures and thoughts of “if-only” or “why didn’t I”.  When you get your piles of trash from the house ready for the junk yard, take the mental baggage and shove it out too.

Holden says, “It takes as much time to be happy as it does to be depressed or resentful. Happiness requires no extra time. In fact it requires not time at all. Happiness is natural, easy and effortless when your self-acceptance is high. To withhold self-acceptance is to judge that you’re not worthy of happiness. You attract what you believe you deserve.”

Thou visits the earth and waters it, thou greatly enriches it; the river of God is full of water; thou provides their grain, for so thou hast prepared it. Thou waters its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. — Psalm 65:9-10

 

(can I eat my candy now) Does this mean we can go back to indulging?

Easter was on Sunday and Passover ends at sundown on Tuesday of this week.

The excitement of Easter coming used always be that we could finally indulge again in whatever it was that we gave up for Lent. How many of you spent Lent just waiting for it to end so you could go back to whatever you chose to abstain from? I often gave up sweets or procrastination or white-flour products or in recent years, gave up my iPad or something like that. But the cravings get to the point of focusing on what we gave up instead of enjoying the period of abstinence and why it was good to not have it. Or, focusing on using that time period to adopt a good habit. Easter for some became the rush to get back to indulging.

To apply this to other aspects of our life, it’s a little bit easier to stop doing something without actually fully giving thought to why we ever did it in the first. That’s the thing with crash diets. Temporary fixes are just that, temporary.

Lent is a 40 day period of abstinence that ends. Have you already gone back to indulging? Before this first week after Easter gets too far along, pause and use some of the meditation time with Deepak and Oprah to think about what you really want to carry forward. Don’t just reflexively indulge again. Open your mind and your habits to a new revelation, an overhaul, a new spring, a new you, a new thought of who you want to be. Think deliberately about what you bring into the rest of this season.

“When your inner world changes, the outer world that you touch changes, little by little.”

“When you decide ahead of time that your inner state of being is going to be peaceful and loving, understanding and compassionate, sharing and forgiving, no matter what any outer moment brings, then the outer world loses it power over you.”

I used to be better at going with the flow and not getting too bent out of shape about things. Regrettably, I’ve allowed myself to get away from that. I’ve gone back to my indulgences from many Lents ago. Now is a good time for each of us to not slip back into what we gave up for Lent. If we could manage to give up whatever we gave up for those 40 days, did we need it? Could we better off leaving those habits on a more permanent basis, whatever they were back in Lent? I am challenging myself and challenging you too.

A friend sent the below to me and several other friends on Easter Sunday. It helped to remind me of what to do as well as what not to do. Indulge in the positive and leave the other stuff back in Lent.

1. Don’t complicate life. We won’t be here forever. Once this day is over, it’s gone forever. Your time is too valuable to waste on nonsense.

2. No matter what knocks you down in life, get up and keep going. NEVER GIVE UP. Great blessings come as a result of great perseverance.

3. Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.

4. Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient, and the best things come to those who don’t give up.

5. Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

6. Disappointments were not meant to destroy you. They were meant to strengthen you and give you fortitude to accomplish your God-given destiny.

7. We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but by appreciating what we do have.

8. Your child will follow your example, not your advice.

9. One day, you’ll be just a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.

10. Associate yourself with people of good quality. For it is better to be alone than in bad company.

11.  Don’t fear change. You may lose something good, but you may also gain something great.

12.  When you love what you have, you have everything you need.

13. The greatest act of faith some days is to simply get up and face another day.

14. Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have – GRATITUDE.

15. Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it has left you.

16. When you choose to forgive those who have hurt you, you take away their power.

17. Patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you are waiting.

18. Isn’t it ironic:
– We ignore those who adore us, but adore the ones that ignore us
– We love those who hurt us, but hurt the ones that love us.

19. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. Every story has an end, but in life every end is just a new beginning.

20. You were born to win. Although to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.

21. Every day is a NEW beginning, take a deep breath and START AGAIN.

22. Know that you are loved. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are beautiful. You have purpose. You are a masterpiece.

23. Don’t compare your progress with that of others. We all need our own time to travel our own distance.

24. Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.

25. Bad things happen everyday to everyone. The difference is in how people deal with it.

26. When you make a commitment, you build hope. When you keep it, you build trust.

27. Two things define you: Your PATIENCE when you have NOTHING, and your ATTITUDE when you have EVERYTHING.

28. Being honest may not get you a lot of FRIENDS but it will always get you the RIGHT ONES.

29. Working on yourself is the hardest part of life. Keep growing up, no matter where you are.

30. Be selective in your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right.

31. Keep people in your life who truly love you, motivate you and make you happy. If you know people who do none of these things, let them go.

32. Be happy not because everything is good, but because you can see the good side of everything.

33. OPTIMISM
NO ➔ Shortcuts
NO ➔ Quick fixes
NO ➔ Blaming others
NO ➔ I’ll do tomorrows
NO ➔ EXCUSES!!

34. Surround yourself with positive people who will support you when it rains, not just when it shines.

35. Being defeated is often a temporary condition; giving up is what makes it permanent.

You are not what you are doing. You are what you are being.

Hope … in uncertain times

Today started a new 21-day free meditation program by Oprah and Deepak Chopra. A few times a year, Oprah and Deepak offer a free 21-day meditation series. I started participating in these about four years ago. They provide moments of calm and respite for me each day of these three weeks. Although I try to do quiet time every day, I haven’t really gotten the hang of meditating as well I know others have. I can’t seem to quiet my mind well enough. Those who know seem to describe me as “wound tight.” I can’t imagine why they say that. I think I am a carefree kind of person, without a care in the world. Haha. I was certainly more carefree before the current occupant of the oval office. This Republican Administration has definitely got me grinding my teeth and if there is something tighter than “wound tight,” that might be me on some days.

So, on April 10th, when Oprah and Deepak started their latest 21-day meditation, I am all in. (You can access it and sign up for free: https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience) This series is title, Hope in Uncertain Times. That’s appropriate, right? Just think of all that is going on in our country, in our world, in our cities, in our politics, in our communities. If I look even in what I see on the Facebook Timelines of my friends and families, I see signs of uncertain times. This is a really good time to utilize this free meditation. You will get a new meditation each morning. It is a wonderful way to start your day. Or, you can choose any time of the day to listen to the meditation, it’s up to you.

Back to how I started my day. I did my 2.5 mile walk this morning (yes, I know I didn’t quite get the full 3 miles in … I’ve slacked off a bit with the high pollen counts out right now), then sat in my front parlor, took some deep breaths and got ready to start the first day of the meditation. Now, never mind that my mind starting racing again and I did a few more things before I actually started the meditation, I did eventually listen to the meditation and get quiet for a few minutes. Awww … it felt good. One of the useful things that we can do when things around us are in turmoil is stop, pause, re-set, take a breath, get quiet, get still and hold it for a few minutes.

When things are uncertain or unsteady, when you get knocked off the routine or unexpected things happen, we have to do something to steady us again. This can happen with a loss, a family death, a job loss, a financial loss, an emotional disappointment or many other reasons. We have to find a way back to solid footing. We have to find hope for the next moment, the next day. Maya Angelou said, “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space.” So if you decide to be hopeful, let go of the fear.

I was blessed to see a family member recently who had experienced significant personal changes over the past three years. She looked great, I mean really great. And her personal challenges / changes had been major. To say that she experienced uncertain times would be a major understatement. Some days she didn’t get out of bed until 2 p.m. But no more. She had family support. She received medical help. She took care of her health. She utilized meditation. She started one step at a time, almost like a writer writes one word at a time. She let go of the fear and let hope reign.

Change is the only certainty in life so approaching life with hope gives each of us more fulfillment. In day 1’s meditation, Deepak encourages us to embrace uncertainty, therefore bringing an intention of fulfillment.

Even with the political craziness going on, there is hope in the darkness of the resistance that has come resulted. The marches and the town halls are full of hope that coming together is engaging the country in a way that will force our Congressional leaders to pay attention. We are each others source of strength and therefore we have become each others hope too. This is an expanded spirituality in a way. I think this augments whatever religious community we practice each Sunday. That is the spirit of Christianity, Judaism, and most religions … that together with Divinity, with God, with Jesus … we are each other’s keeper.

I had a book recommended to me after the inauguration, Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit. It was written as a case for hope at the height of the George H.W. Bush Administration’s beginning of the war in Iraq. It grew out of despair with the early Bush years from Bush vs. Gore and then its evolution into his presidency. For many of us that was the last dark time of the country. So, here we are again, and actually worse than even then. The recommendation to read it was that the book helped for how to approach activism, social change and political engagement during similar times. I recommend you get it.

Between the 21-day meditation, Hope in Uncertain Times, and the book, Hope in the Dark, maybe there will be a few nuggets that will apply to aspects of what you are experiencing now. The meditations will be a calming force for anything you are going through. The universe always provides for what you need when you need it. That’s how God rolls. Before you ask … it will appear.

The world is always being made and is never finished.

Hope is an idea to navigate by, to  breathe in.

Paradise is not just the place in which you arrive but the journey toward it.

Activism / political engagement is successful for that which you work toward not just for each battle won …

Change happens as much by inspiration and catalyst as by imposition.

Today is also the day of creation. Hope begins now, it’s an inside job.