An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.
– Doris Day

Seriously, it’s already the end of 2017? Not that that is a bad thing. It just seems like yesterday when I was spending the prior holiday with my family, feasting and fellowshipping, laughing and crying. It’s funny how, as life goes on, time seems to move faster and faster. Where we once spent our lives looking forward, we find ourselves casting our eyes and memories to the past.

images 11.33.25 AM.jpgTo help stay grounded in the present moment, I practice a daily morning meditation where I incorporate gratitude. This isn’t a half-thought, or a token spiritual gesture. It’s a spiritual requirement for me to be thankful for the people, experiences and belongings we share. Gratitude journals come in handy here (I document my thankfulness on electronic sticky notes but to each her own.).

A Place to Call Home

You only have to look around at what you have versus what others have to see how truly blessed you are…only to be humbled by how little some people may look like they have when, in fact, they feel just as blessed. For years, a homeless woman has walked up and down the main streets of my beach town, pushing her few belongings in a wheelchair. When she gets tired, she sleeps in her chair. Local vendors give her food and drink. She rewards them with the most beautific smile and a thank you. She never seems to be concerned about her situation. I hear her mumble to herself at times but even if she’s disoriented, she’s always clean and seems to know where the services are in town so that she can eat. I’ve never seen her take the bus. She trudges resolutely everywhere. Over time I’ve watched her go from being a robust, heavy-set human to a thinner older lady, still pushing her mobile ‘home’ around town.

I don’t remember her name although she may have told me once. Occasiionally I would get gas at the crack of dawn before going to work and here she would come, rolling down the street with her sweet, round chocolate pie face. Then she would wave and say, “Hey beautiful!” Never asked me for a dime. One day I happened to be at a 76 gas station as she was strolling past. I said “Hey beautiful!” and ran up to her. I probably gave her a couple of bucks. She smiled widely and asked, “How old are you?” I told her. She said, “I’m 56 – you’re a baby!” I am most definitely not too many years behind her. “Thank you baby!” And off she went, gratitude in action.

Thank You For Being A Friend

download.jpgIn recent months, I’ve spent a lot of time with my family, mostly due to illness and aging. One of the most humbling aspects of caregiving is the gratitude expressed by the friends and extended family members for my efforts. In my view, it’s a no-brainer: My family takes care of me in difficult times and I take care of them when it’s their turn. Yet it is amazing how many people say, “You’re a good daughter for taking care of your parents” or “I’m so glad they have you and your brother”. I’m just thankful I’m in a position to do it. The most satisfying and rewarding praise came directly from my parents. They have been so happy I’ve been there for them, even until the day my father left us. In fact, it was only a couple of weeks ago that my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, looked at me and said, “I’m glad you’re here.”

If you knew my mother, you would know that is high praise indeed.

The Universe Will Provide

Having faith in good outcomes is a muscle I try to flex everyday. When life becomes too much or too overwhelming and I can’t make a decision in any direction, I’ve learned to throw up my hands and say, “You know what? I don’t have an answer yet. I’ll place this in God’s hands and let him take the wheel.” And while this may seem like hocus pocus religious folly, I can guarantee you it works pretty much every time. All I have to do is ask the question, for example: “I don’t have any money in the bank. How will I pay this bill?” Then mysteriously a check or a refund shows up in the mail that I wasn’t expecting. This practice was extremely effective when I had a life threating illness. I was told I was probably not going to live. As a result, I became extremely grateful for the time I had left. – so far it’s been about 23 years and counting. A few years later I was stranded in a foreign country and I had no idea how I was going to get a place to stay, return home, etc. Miraculously, a key to a vacant apartment was produced. A return airline ticket was found (after more than one attempt – all the flights had been booked and were sold out). I made it back to the USA safely. That lesson taught me the value of trusting that things will turn out alright and allow me to develop an attitude of gratitude in response.

What I’m Grateful For Today

images-2.jpgThis holiday season I’m grateful for many, many things. I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend with my father, mother and brother last year as that was our last holiday together with my Dad. I’m blessed this year to be able to still have our mother with us so that we can spoil her rotten, not with presents she doesn’t need, but with love, laughter and affection. I’m deeply appreciative of the fact that I’m in good health and can look forward to many more years spent with my beloved friends and family members. I have hands to write, eyes to read, feet to walk. I can clean and cook (not by any means my favorite things to do but I can’t imagine not being able to do them). I can sing and make music and frolic on the beach. I can play and work at my leisure.

Yes, there are a lot of things I don’t have. But today, life is pretty damned spectacular. May your own life be exceedingly bountiful, beautiful and blessed.

Happy Holidays!

Advertisements

The Casting Ouch

When I think of the past year I’m struck by how much pain I’ve witnessed – in my own life and in the lives of others. The misogyny, senseless loss and violence are as isolating as they are universally binding.

As if that weren’t enough, simages-2.jpgome sort of transactional assault and sexual misconduct is being featured daily at the forefront of the news, perpetuated by prominent executives, celebrities and government officials, trickling tragically down to the victims – men, women and children from all walks of life who, for ever reason, were in the wrong place with the wrong person at the wrong time. One by one, the media reveals another story, another heartbreak, about someone who was trying to get ahead in life and found that the only way to move forward was to lie down.

I take all of the victim’s stories to heart because I’ve been there on multiple occasions. As a kid I was chased around the house by my next door neighbor who was supposed to be babysitting me. At sixteen I was held up and assaulted in a retail store. The perp had a gun but luckily I was able to get away in the end and get help. I wasn’t dressed provacatively in these cases. I was a child; as I teen I was just working, trying to earn minimum wage.

Both scenarios were unfortunate and left some emotional scars but I did do something to empower myself. I told some boy cousins about the old man. They trashed his car. He got the message and didn’t do it again. As for my retail job, the owners tried to say I wasn’t employed there. I filed a report. Then I sued them – turns out I wasn’t supposed to work alone in the store without a supervisor or security system. I went to court and won. This was a valuable lesson because I learned that I had worth, even if the people ‘in charge’ didn’t necessarily think so. And taking action and telling my story helped me to eventually heal.

The casting couch is real: download.jpgWhen I came to Hollywood in my 20s and had a vision for my artistic career. I worked part-time as a singer and studied songwriting. I went on many, many auditions. Music is a male-dominated field. Ninety-nine percent of the time I was meeting alone with single, male producers or songwriters, generally in their home studios or out in their garage. I was propositioned repeatedly and, if I didn’t comply, would be paid in chinese food – or not at all – and not be asked to return. The production companies who treated me with respect were often run by married men or those in a long-term relationships. These gentlemen were not interested in me romantically or sexually; they paid well, enjoyed our working relationship and allowed me to be my creative self without squashing my dreams.

I suspect saying no more than saying yes probably cost me plenty of opportunities because I wouldn’t lie down with someone to do so. This is not to say it wasn’t tempting to think about…the potential rewards – fame and fortune – are the proverbial fish being dangled in front of your face. I ultimately quit pursuing a career as a work-for-hire player because I was so fed up with being “pimped out” by people who didn’t earn it or deserve it – my time, talent and attention, that is. But I learned that there is a high price for this kind of success – giving away your power almost always guarantees that by trading your body and soul for money and glory you will almost certainly pay the piper some day. Once you lie down on that couch, there there’s an accompanying ‘ouch’ – the moment when you realize that you’ve compromised something you should be cherishing – your dignity and self-respect. And once that’s gone, it’s really, really hard to recover…if ever.images.jpg

May all those who suffer be healed. And may all though who cast for talent replace the couch with wisdom and compassion.

Chasing The Storm

“Even the bad is beautiful” – Alice Herz-Sommer

images.jpg
You don’t need to be religious or believe in climate change to notice the confluence of natural disasters and man-made chaos occurring over the last few months. Just check out the devastating hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, some of which erupted during the past eclipses and the astrological Mercury Retrograde period https://www.almanac.com/content/mercury-retrograde. Aside from natural disasters, I saw the loss of yet another loved one, the backup of my bathroom plumbing and the demise of my three-year-old refrigerator .

My suffering is minor, however, compared to the pain and unrest going on in the rest of the world. I have a gratitude journal is filled with the same mantra: I’m grateful to be alive, to have a roof over my head, my health, my family, food, etc. Now, I’m adding another bit of grace to the list: I’m grateful to live in these political times.
Grateful because, for me, what was murky in our political process and structure for so many decades, is now as clear as rain.

“He Who Shall Not Be Named” is not going to be discussed as leader of the free world in this blog. Because no matter what you think of the current President of the United States, he is not a leader-at least not in any inspired way. Whatever positive authorative qualities he might possess are buried beneath his personality characteristics as a force of nature. He pushes his way through conflict, wreaking havoc as he goes along, deflecting from his own misdeeds while inflicting pain on others from his golden tower.
This individual is a hurricane unto himself, aiming to destroy whomever gets in his way. images-2.jpgAnd in the wake of the destruction, he shrugs, forgets and moves onto the next victim. Some believe his antics and rants are making America better. I’ve yet to see any evidence. What I do believe is that you have to allow storms to run their course. Chasing them will only put you in harms way. The media don’t need to be silent because the President says so; they need to ban him as he has banned them. The NFL doesn’t need to kneel on one knee or disrespect the American flag to protest racism (when, let’s face it, it really is just a big F-U to the President); they might consider getting down on both knees and praying for this man’s salvation. And if the American people and our supporters around the globe are disturbed by what is happening in the U.S., find the brands that this President owns and STOP BUYING his bullshit. Hit him where he lives – in other people’s wallets.

Stop feeding the fire. Stop chasing the storm. Stop following him on Twitter. And Twitter? Stop enabling him. Shame on you. We know that’s what’s keeping you in business but is it worth it to provide this person a tool that can potentially put the safety of our planet at risk? His usage violates your own terms of service. According to your guidelines, you can’t wage war on another country via a Tweet.

Stand up and do what’s right, before it’s too late.

 

Dreams Don’t Have an Expiration Date

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream – Vincent Van Gogh

I live for those stories where someone who is 80-plus-years-old goes back to college and earns their degree. Or the individual who loses their mobility due to some misfortune and then runs a marathon. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Gandhi had big dreams. They became bigger than themselves, and shined a light for the entire world to follow for decades to come.

I especially love to witness dreams in action: I was working at a university medical school at one point and a young lady used to come into the Dean’s office periodically to get counseling. As far as I could tell, she was missing a right hand due to a bacterialimages.jpginfection she contracted as a child in Malasia. Four years later at graduation she casually takes off her shoes in the office – to reveal her legs have also been amputated. I remember jokingly scolding her for not telling me. But she simply didn’t want to be treated differently. And now she’s an MD, first specialty in OB/Gyn and secondarily as an professor of Infectious Diseases. Her experiences led her to dream of one day being a doctor. And she became one.

I Dreamed A Dream…or Two

Follow your dreams, we’re told. Make your dreams come true. Chase your dreams. download.jpg
Well, I’ve touched many of my dreams, some more successfully than others. I realize my biggest barriers to dream fulfillment involve a basic component: Persistence. If it’s easy to achieve and I’m passionate about it, I’m all in. But if the passion is only luke warm, my dreams don’t progress very far. Whenever I feel discouraged about my progress I’m reminded about a story a close friend once told me about the time she was on the verge of giving up her hopes of going to college. Then her mother gave her a birthday card with the motto, “Dreams Don’t Have an Expiration Date”.

Indeed. I continue to witness and be inspired by dreamweavers every day:

A woman in her early 40s wanted a baby so badly she not only froze her eggs but saw chinese medicine specialists and a psychic. After several miscarriages, she was down to her last egg. She told me that she had a vision of what the child would look like (the father) and that it would be a little girl. Fast forward a few years later and she has a little girl who is the spitting image of her father, with a few of her mom’s lovely attributes to boot.

A young aspiring Shakespearean actor moves to Hollywood to “make it”. Ends up starring on not one, but three and counting successful sitcoms. 

The middle-aged couple who dreamed of owning a home but didn’t make enough money winds up buying the property from the owner for a fraction of its worth dueto his retirement.

A seven-year-old girl gets taken to a Thanksgiving musical play and is so excited by what she sees she jumps up on stage and decides she wants to act and dance. Four years later she’s dancing in a premiere ballet company and touring as Nala in The Lion King. 

My father dreamed of being a doctor but could not afford the money to take the entry exam into med school so he became a chemist instead, still helping people through his vision.

images.jpg

Some say manifesting is about getting what you want. I think it about aspiring towards something you may think is out of reach…and grabbing it with both hands. Just the other day I read about a woman whose goal was to get into better shape…at 60. Now, in her 70s and is an award-winning professional bodybuilder. Her motto? You’re never too old, there’s nothing you cannot do and, if you can see it, you can have it.

Words to dream by.

This September post is dedicated to my dear friend Janice Dean whose last dream was to retire in Santa Cruz and listen to her favorite bands play every night.
May she rest in eternal peace.

 

The Question of Being Single

If music be the food of love, play on. – William Shakespeare

images.jpg

Dating Vs. Mating

When people ask me my relationship status, I generally seize up internally and begin to scan my brain for the latest and greatest excuse for why I’m not married, have no children and, in general, have been chronically single for most of my adult life.

My quick, go-to response is usually: “I’m better at dating than mating”. This is an honest response. Although I’ve experienced romantic love numerous times, I don’t have the personality of a caretaker. It’s always been more about me – my needs, my goals, my dreams. The only reason I’m not ashamed to admit this is because I’ve tried living the other way, making it about the other person. And I found, time and again, that the other person was the wrong person to be on the receiving end of this type of affection.

So here I am. But I know I’m not alone. I can jump online to any dating site and see there’s a lot of folks out there just like me…sorta. And I have quite a few single friends of a certain age, some because they want to and others who simply can’t find “The One”.

What Creates A Singleton?

As a young person, I’m sure a relationship therapist could have helped me answer this question. But I had so many other more pressing issues that a partner seemed like an afterthought. I was trying to get an education, build a career. From ages 17-23 I also experienced a couple of disasterous encounters with inappropriate partners which made me more than a little gun shy. Growing up as a minority in what was essentially an predominately white school system, I never had the childhood sweetheart or the girly prom. Instead, I was shuttled out of the suburbs to hang out with kids who lived a less privileged life, something which often led to trouble, destructive behavior and choosing the wrong playmates. In between the bad moments, however, I did meet and date some really nice, really sweet gentlemen suiters from all different backgrounds. For whatever reason, however, they evaporated into the ether and I was left wondering what my next partner would be like and how they would make my heart sing.
images.png

I learned along the way that finding friendship first is important, if not critical, in establishing any kind of romantic relationship. A serial dater in my early 20s I was once set up on fourteen consecutive blind dates. I didn’t find one keeper in the bunch but many of them eventually became friends.

Back then, youth and naivete drove my relationship choices. I didn’t value myself as much as I could have. These days I’ve learned that, while maintaining standards and self-esteem, it really helps to know your worth on the dating market. Moving to Los Angeles by way of the Bay Area, I had a rude awakening early on. Instead of being an attractive girl, unique from the suburbs, I became one of many average pretty women in a large metropolitan city. According to one rather rude dude I dated, “my stock went down” and apparently continued to do so with age. By the time I was 40, I had had only two semi-serious relationships and both were with men who would never be potential life partners and due to health issues I was unable to have children which also made me less of a catch. I used to joke that the best way to find a man not spoiled by the riches of beautiful women was to meet them when they stepped off the boat. One recent example: Not long ago, I was shopping in the market and a handsome man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, clearly new to L.A., was following the store security guard around, joking with him and gawking at all the women. He turned to me, mouth open, and turned back to his friend smiling like a puppy that was getting adopted. Initially flattered, my face fell when I overheard the security guard dismiss me, saying, I wasn’t a “10” (he resembled an aging walrus so I took that comment in stride).

When Love Knocks…Answer the Door

download.jpgAs silly as it sounds, I was so happy to see to see a third sequel to the Bridget Jones franchise (and no, I didn’t watch the second film). I enjoyed how the character never deliberately to set out to have a nuclear family and was content with who she had become but always wound up bedding the most attractive men. She wanted, but didn’t need, a man to complete her. And she’s getting older, as one does, so it makes her character that much more relatable.

They say you find love when you aren’t looking for it. I do cherish the healthy, happy relationships I have had and look forward to finding my next soul to mate with. That said, it’s really easy to get comfortable in the single life, especially if you enjoy your own company. You tend not to want to bring in any energy into your world that isn’t fully loving and supportive. Being single means you don’t have to work at any relationship but your own.

Still, it would be nice, if not to get married, then at least to have someone solid to hang out with. Dating over a certain age requires fortitude..and luck. I’m friends with a woman who in the fifteen years I’ve known her has had three relationships, back-to-back. She’s 55+ and never alone. No kids, prefers to stay unmarried. But finding a man is no problem for her. In fact, each time she met them differently – one online, one through her work, the last one while shopping at Target! The other day I met a woman in her 40s who told me she was sitting on the beach minding her own business a few years ago when her partner came up to her, struck up a conversation and asked her out. They haven’t been apart since. Turns out she also writes books about serendipity, so maybe that her secret.

Thankfully, I still have time to find Mr. Right. The best piece of relationship advice I ever got was this: If you want to meet a nice man, go where nice men go. Rinse and repeat. Maybe it’s time to start taking that advice. Because when love knocks, I want to be home.

 

Meditating on Meditation

Sleep is the best meditation. – Dalai Lama

A few weeks ago I splurged on a three-hour meditation workshop, hosted by a meditation for-profit company. This is one of those  places where post-hippy millenials wear flowy clothes and flip flops and find solace in the crystals section of the store. images-2.jpg

As a meditator for many years in temples, sitting groups, yoga studios, retreats, church, etc, this space was a bit foreign to me. Donation or member-based non-profits are usually grounded in a educational discipline or spiritual philosophy. Yes, they may also have crystals in their store but the money they collect is tax-deductible.

So my first thought was: Only in LA.

Two strict rules were enforced: 1. No shoes on the floor and 2. No cell phones in the room.

Phones couldn’t even be turned off, they had to be relinquished at the door, sort of like at a Dave Chappelle concert.

images.pngSeemed reasonable. I took off my shoes and took my phone back to my car (because no one gets my cell phone, period). When I returned the women who checked me in gave me a small pitch on their services and instruction on how much it cost to become a member (I can’t recall the amount but it was prohibitive at the time). I could also take one-off classes to the tune of $24 (which, I mentally noted, was more than the most expensive  yoga class in my neighborhood, where at least I would get a workout AND meditation). While I waited for the workshop to begin, I watched the young, mostly white middle-class women file out of the previous session, seemingly refreshed by their meditation immersion. I attempted to ask one young woman a question about her experience and her whole body threw shade at me. It was like a cloud darkening. Luckily, another young lady with a completely different energy sidled up to me and asked if she could sit down. She and her husband had driven three hours to see the teacher and she had been following him for years. They were both writers, she an aspiring mystery novelist. It was her husband’s first foray into meditation and he was as earnest as a school boy, bringing along his notebook so he could record everything. They were lovely and charming to interact with.

The guest teacher was the draw: An elf-like, Santa Claus guru type of throwback to the 70s, he arrived in a semi-frenzy in the lobby wearing a dark jacket, under which he wore a dark t-shirt with a spirtually inspired emblem. On his feet were a pair of colorful socks, cartoonish in nature. It seemed he had a pretty big following; everyone had come because he often does big retreats in faraway lands that no one can afford. Hence the $60 admission to spend a few hours with hidownload.jpgm.

The group was a bit more diverse group than the previous one. There were many males and more ethnic representation, including a few older women and one elderly Asian man. The most impressive aspect of the room for me was the seating. Each person had an individual meditation ‘lounge chair’ that contorted to your body.  There was no way to be uncomfortable in it, even sitting as we were on the floor.

I had followed the meditation recordings of this ‘guru’ for a couple of years having discovered him on Deepak Chopra’s website where he was part of the administration of their organization. However, I never really knew what he offered besides a weekly recording. Turns out he left Dr. Chopra to do his own thing. So, in addition to teaching meditation to anyone who will have him, he also has a radio show where he picks topics and then incorporates his standard meditation (it’s pretty much the same each week with a different spiritual topic).

Being a positive sceptic, I knew he wasn’t a renowned counselor nor was he  a doctor or therapist. In other words, he’s not Wayne Dyer. Yes, he learned a technique but it is his charisma, his soothing voice that draws you in. His videos are all taped on the beach. He’s like Surfing Santa with a DJ vibe. He’s also written a couple of books on destressing. In other words, he’s got the relaxation gig down cold.

He wasn’t exactly nice as much as he was a firm parent – there to guide you but not be your friend. Listening to his suggested methods, I was pleasantly surprised at how structured his presentation was; it flowed so easily that the hours went by very quickly.

download-1.jpgEven more interesting was the manner in which people were responding to him as a person. The audience was both rapt and respectful; they reacted as if they were being read a bedtime story instead of learning how to go deeper within. Not everyone was practicing mindfulness, however. A younger woman in front of me came in with a male friend and hadn’t gotten the memo about the cell phone rule. A middle-aged woman sitting next to them had sat in one of their chairs when they first came in so there was tension there; she later sharply demanded that the woman give up her cell phone, which the woman did readily but not without a return rebuttal on the tone of the woman’s voice. Meditation drama.

A young Indian girl who attended was particularly heartbreaking, interrupting throughout the session asking basic questions. She would periodically get up on stilts – her legs were painfully thin – and hobble out of the room, presumably to the bathroom. She was the absolute worst case of an anorexia I have ever witnessed. Literally the walking dead. As she passed me for the third time to leave the room, another woman to my right muttered, “Jesus”. The teacher addressed her every question on the edge of disgust and impatience, even at one point trying to interject some wisdom on addiction and impulse and how people even have a problem with food – as he looks straight at her.

images.jpgMeditation techniques were shared. Three of the four were unique to any I had experienced anywhere and I was glad of the new information. We meditated periodically throughout the talk; his goal being to get the audience to understand that meditation can be built in blocks over time and doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Five minutes or a day, doesn’t matter.

When the workshop ended, I was ready to go home. I didn’t swarm to buy the teacher’s book or get his autograph. However, I did begin to contemplate my own practice to see how or if I could incorporate any of his techniques into it. The answer was yes, of course. But do I need to? The door he opened for me was choice: Of all the types of meditation I’ve done over the years in various disciplines and religions I’ve always felt an obligation to ‘see-through’ the process of getting still as if it is an end goal and not a journey in and of itself.

images-2.jpgThe truth is that there are many forms of meditation out there – each with it’s own set of benefits, including relaxation, contemplation and healing. I have learned to seek out what I need, when I need it. And because of this I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one guru over another. In fact, while this teacher was appropriate for the moment, I know I that personally I will need deeper, more experienced teachings over time. The teacher matters but, in my opinion, the message is more important.

In the end, this workshop was a gift of insight and whatever tools I learned that day are now at my disposal. If I learn a new meditation tool and it seems to feel good, then I will use it. If not, then I won’t pick up the throne. The intention was and is, to be still and, in that stillness, allow life to unfold.

Namaste!

Creating Sacred Space

Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone but yourself – Buddha

I’ve always envied the rich with large, cavernous homes because they can, if they so choose, devote a whole room to pampering and solitude. Being a renter my whole life means unless I’m using my bedroom, I’m challenged to find an empty corner in my home dedicated as a contemplative space. The bedroom as sanctuary works, of course – it should act as a retreat. But if you share it with someone else, that space is not entirely your own.

images.png

SacredSpace.jpg

As Buddha said, the only true sanctuary is within you. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to carve out a special niche in your environment that belongs only to you. It’s how home offices and man caves are created, with the intention of function and purpose. You work hard, you deserve it.

Years ago I started a new job as a business development consultant. The office manager there was in the middle of a transition – she was trying to have a baby and her husband wasn’t working. She wanted the baby more than she wanted her husband to get a job and they were preparing at some point to move back in with her parents. I asked her if she had a special place to meditate in her home and she said she didn’t. So I suggested that she find a shelf or table where she could set up an altar where she could pray for her request. She liked the idea and immediately went home, found candles, a cross and a statue of Jesus and created a prayer corner. The next day she thanked me profusely. A year or so later her prayer came true and now she is the mother of a beautiful son.

The Altar of Experience

The word ‘altar’ reminds me of my experiences as a child watching Catholic priests and young altar boys lighting tall, white candlesticks in heavy, golden holders and then kneeling before them, making the sign of the holy trinity across the their robed chests. These days I think of an altar as spiritual protection, a way in which to honor and appreciate what is important to remember in my life. A place I can go to in order to remind myself what is a priority, what is meaningful. My sacred space.

When I moved into a new place three years ago, my intention was to work with the spiritual energy of my home. I chose the windowsill beneath my bedroom window to create my simple altar. The ledge provides the perfect space next to my bed: Beneath the window on the floor is a cushion in case I get an urge to pray or meditate. On the altar itself I have a few memories, sometimes I’ll add a vase with fresh flowers, a spiritual symbol or a picture of someone or something I am praying for. Currently there is a book with wise quotes called A Bag of Jewels, written in calligraphy and gifted to me by a dear friend. It honors the power of friendship and the quotes within speak to the fact that none of us is alone, we all go through the same stuff. The next item is an embroidered bag I bought in Singapore, reminding me of my travels there. The next is a velvet cloth bag of violet and turquoise, filled with coins from various countries. It’s represents the ability I have to find the funds to continue my journey. A pretty empty purple box sits next to the bag, awaiting a purpose.

Finally, there is another box, multicolored with flowers. It is this box that is the important addition because it is filled with intentions. I’ve scribbled them on post-it notes and put them in the box. It’s called my God Box; its primary purpose is to allow me to release my troubles to the Universe. If there is an ongoing issue in my life, I write it down and fold the note and release it. Weeks or months later, I check the box to see what has been resolved and remove the note. It’s a way of ‘letting go and letting God’ in motion.

20170531_160430.jpg

My Altar

Another item in my sacred space (on the cushion because it won’t fit on the windowsill) is my vision book, a binder containing positive images I’ve cut out or printed that help me align my desires with how I want my life to work. When I was younger and much more ambitious, my vision book was filled with all the things I wanted to accomplish. Now it reflects more of the kind of human being I want to be.

Intentional Sanctuary

I know people who feel selfish when they lock their bedroom door so they can have a few minutes of alone time. And yet when they tell me how resentful they feel when people don’t respect their space, I want to ask, how much better would you be able to care for them if you took 30 minutes out to care for you? Whatever form that care takes, be it silence, meditation, prayer or just playing music, reading – imagine how much better of a human being you could be if you silence your phone and stop checking your messages, how much better you could engage with the world around you.

I’ve grown increasingly introverted over the years, after years of being what others might say is a gadfly. The last decade or so, in particular, has brought many challenges and struggles so I’ve had to try to learn healthy coping skills, to the point of avoiding certain people. It is a sacrifice, but through the creation of silence, in a space where only I belong, I am learning more about survival and self-care.

Evolving Space

I have a lifelong intention to pretty up my space. I’m not a natural decorator and have been accused of living my life like a college student, with minimal furniture and not much design sense. Yet, I feel good here. And if my home is a reflection of who I am, then I would say I am someone who does not need much at the moment but if I find myself wishing for more structure in terms of furniture or color in my decor, then I trust that my self-care mechanism will kick in and I will go out and find it. But for now, I take comfort in that I have what I need and that my environment provides a truly respite from the world and a sacred space to soothe the soul.