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I can’t take total credit for this metaphor, my teacher gave it to me. I’m amazed at how far it can be pushed.

Imagine that your life – all the energy that surrounds you and makes up your reality – is water in a swimming pool. Your goal in life is contentment. Not happy, not sad. Just content, level, even. Therefore, you want the water in your pool calm and still, with as few ripples as possible. And there you are hangin’ out down there in the bottom of the deep end where it’s peaceful and quiet.

Now imagine all the people in your life. Some you love, some you like. Perhaps some you don’t like so much but you’re stuck with them, like relatives or coworkers. All these people are in your swimming pool with you because they are in your life. The problem is, many of these people respect your pool, while others don’t. They insist on splashing around and making waves which causes you varying degrees of distress.

While you can’t always control who swims in your pool, you can control who gets access to the deep end. You do not have to allow every Dick and Jane you meet full access, or even partial access, to your energy. Some people are relegated to the shallow end forever, where the splashing is limited by the depth of the water. Occasionally people earn your respect and are allowed to go a little deeper. Sometimes they just never seem to pass the swim test that would allow them under the rope. Others aren’t even allowed in the pool – they have to stay up on the deck where their nonsense will cause nothing more than disturbed air!

As a matter of course, we have to clean up our pools. Backwash the filter, scrub the algae off, give it a big dose of chlorine. This tends to coincide with change in our lives – job transitions, divorces, even quitting an organization can offer an opportunity to let some relationships go. There are two things happening here…

One: a pool only holds so much water; we only hold so much energy. If we want to take on something (or someone) new, we often have to let go of something old. Two: people come into our lives at a particular time, for a reason. They are here to teach us, gift us, provide something to us; we are in their lives for the same reason. When those lessons are learned, the relationship ends. It can end painfully, it can end amicably, or it can just drift off. We just can’t fit everyone in the pool at one time.

Think about your swimming pool. Is everyone at the correct depth? Is it time for a cleanup? Is there anyone you want to invite in? Perhaps there are some who have drifted to the shallow end, but you  miss them and need to reach out, inviting them back in. Maybe they’ll respond and maybe they won’t, it depends on where you are in their swimming pool. Keep your swimming pool clean and clear, and you will find it easier to stay content.

When I was in the fourth grade, I was in the school play. It was mandatory and I hated it.  Even though my part was playing a cheerleader and I had no lines, the thought of being in front of a group of people made me sick. Literally. I never made it to the actual performance, choosing rather to throw up on the kitchen floor about an hour before show time.

As I worked my way through school and started my career, I managed to avoid having to speak publicly. If I had to do it, I ended up reading from my paper at about 400 words per minute – never looking up to see my audience. In fact, if they were to go to the restroom en masse, I wouldn’t have noticed. However, I realized this could eventually hold me back from something I wanted to do.

That day came when I volunteered for a team charged with changing the culture in our 40-person department. We would eventually have to roll out our ideas during a two-day offsite meeting that we held in the ballroom of a large hotel. PowerPoint slides, videos, breakout teams, the whole kit-n-caboodle.

 When the student is ready, the teacher appears. A few months before the big meeting, my company offered a seminar on public speaking. We had a great instructor who gave us fabulous advice, tips, and practice. All of that was great, but the best piece of advice I picked up is the quote at the top of this article by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I’ve had it on a post-it note stuck to my desk for years now.

I realized that as long as I knew my material inside and out, how bad could I mess up? As long as I could speak clearly, loudly (not a problem for me!), and manage to not trip over my feet, what could possibly go wrong? What was I afraid of? Someone asking a question I couldn’t answer? Forgetting what I was supposed to say? Well if I knew my stuff, those issues would go away. And you know what? As long as you know your topic, audiences are very forgiving (probably because most of them cringe at the thought of public speaking, too).

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Water? Looking silly at a wedding because you can’t dance? Do some research, take a lesson, and begin to understand your fear. Once you know what you’re facing, it’s not nearly as scary as it was.

A great post by Seth Godin (hopefully I’m linking this correctly, sorry, I’m a newbie!).

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/01/no-everything-is-not-going-to-be-okay.html

I volunteer my time with a local charity. As part of my service, I spend a couple hours every week helping another woman sort and log the donations that come in through our public donation room.

Lets start out by stating this: we use gallons of hand sanitizer in the donation room. You would be shocked by what people donate (the really gross stuff comes in anonymously, of course!). We consistently get used underwear, flip flops with dirty footprints embedded in them, bathing suits with the elastic frayed, and whole bags that smell like a moldy basement. This is on top of the typical stains, tears, bad zippers, and suspiciously-like-body-fluid spots. We withhold our opinions, as “ugly as sin” is a judgement call. Every bag is gone through (unless we retch from stench when we open the bag), and checked by both of us. It saddens us to have to dumpster at least one garbage bag of donations each week.

So here’s the concept: just because people are in need does not mean they want to wear things that you wouldn’t be caught dead in at Wal-Mart. These people have dignity, too. Their kids just want to look like the other kids, not like a kid in hand-me-downs. It’s hard to take handouts, and harder to have to take crappy handouts. Think carefully when you donate. Here are some tips:

  • Charities don’t have the funds to pay a tailor for fixing hems and zippers. Fix these yourself or toss them.
  • Bathing suits, underwear, socks: just don’t do it.
  • It’s ok if the clothes are packed into a garbage bag, wrinkles aren’t a problem.
  •  We love it if you wash the clothes, but if they’re not perfectly dry when you put them in the bag, they smell like mildew by the time we take them out.
  • If it looks like you’ve washed it four hundred times (frayed and stretched collars and cuffs, pills, faded), make them into rags.
  • Jeans are hard to figure out – so many of them are purposely distressed. But people doing this kind of work can tell when it’s a real hole, or a manufactured hole. Don’t think you’re fooling us and don’t think “the kids all wear them that way”.
  • If there is enough fur on there to knit a sweater, wash it or donate it to the pet who has claimed it.

It’s important enough to say again: everyone wants to feel good about what they’re wearing, no matter how they came by it. So think of them as you’re cleaning out the closet. And speaking for all of us who have to dig through garbage bags full of a stranger’s cast-offs, we thank you. We appreciate every donation we get.

Every minute of every day, from the day you were conceived, you have been changing. Cells are born to replace the ones that age and die. Your senses are constantly bombarded with stimuli, providing new experiences that change our minds and our muscles. Thoughts arise in our minds, changing the way our neurons connect.

So why do so many of us fight change? Change can be scary. It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks, our minds are set and our bodies want to do things the easy way. Change means something will be different, and it may be worse than what was before. But change can be exciting, too. Learning something new makes our minds expand, setting off those fireworks of ideas that get us charged up. Change means something will be different, and it is may be better than what was before.

Sometimes change is frightening because it is unexpected. And while sometimes there is no way to plan, there are many times when there are subtle clues that something is going to happen. The trick is to pick up on the clues and prepare. This is difficult, because we’re all rushing about living our supercharged lives; we miss the clues because we are moving too fast to see them. Some people use the phrase, “Tapped with a feather or hit with a 2 x 4” to describe how the concept works. 

Joe is an incredible high school student and athlete. Playing multiple sports at varsity level, he has had coaches and recruiters watching him since his freshman year. This year, Joe has been plagued with low-level illness: a cold here, a sore throat there, a pulled muscle or two. A trip to the doc, some antibiotics and a good night’s sleep usually made him feel well enough to continue with his college-prep studies, sports practices and events. These little illnesses were the taps with the feather, but Joe and his parents didn’t pick up on it. They were so involved in the day-to-day, they couldn’t see the overall pattern. Last week the 2 x 4 hit him: Joe was diagnosed with Mono. Thoroughly exhausted, Joe has had to make special arrangements to take his finals. Sports are off limits for at least a month, and he can’t attend the three prestigious sports camps that he was signed up for; missing camp means he misses the college coaches and recruiters.

Pushing, pushing, pushing, it was inevitable that change would be coming to Joe. One hopes it would be good change like a college scholarship. And that will probably still come, but first an unwelcome lesson. Had Joe and his folks been living a little slower and made different choices when his body showed signs of fatigue, perhaps Joe wouldn’t be so sick right now. Change is inevitable, but sometimes we can soften the blow. Listen for the little clues to avoid being hit with the big stick.

I’ve been thinking about cancer a lot lately.

When I was young (but old enough to be aware of the world), cancer was an “old person” disease.  People’s grandparents, in their 70s and 80s, old and wrinkled. In my kid world, you got old and either had a heart attack and dropped dead, or got this disease and died. Oncology and cardiology weren’t what they are today.

In my 20s, the ages of the victims started creeping lower. There weren’t many, but people only a few years older than me were diagnosed. In my 30s, there were more cases and the ages were still dropping; people’s parents were dying in their 60s. Now I’m about to turn 40, and I feel surrounded. Cancer has touched my family, my friends and coworkers, and their families. It seems like every day I find out about someone else. All ages, races, genders, socioeconomic levels… cancer doesn’t discriminate.

The only thing we all have in common is the environment. I think years of toxins, pollutants, and poisons have caught up to us. Our water, air, food, even the carpeting on the floor and the paint on the walls… surrounded again. On the brighter side, oncology has come a long way; its amazing. Chemo has improved greatly, there’s targeted radiation, drugs are able to keep tumor cells from replicating or can choke off a tumor’s blood supply. Early detection and clinical trials save lives. New treatments, therapies and medicines come out every year.

I’m often asked to pray for people. And I do. And I dedicate this post to all the victims, all the survivors, all the caregivers, and all those who pray for all those other people. Sending thoughts, prayers, positive vibes, good karma, chi, prana… and hugs.

One of the interesting things about getting the crap out of my head is I’ve learned it’s never really gone. Well, maybe when I’m REALLY detached it will finally go, but that is a long way off. For now, even the stuff I think I’ve beat still pops up once in a while, like a dormant seed that has gotten just enough water and sunlight.

Lets start with a lesson. When one is trying to do something, one should focus on the goal and not the by-product. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Here’s a great example: People who are trying to get skinny, will do unhealthy things to get there, like fad diets, exercising to extreme, and taking weight-loss pills. People who are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle will avoid these unhealthy behaviors. They will listen to their bodies (and their doctors), eat a well-balanced diet, exercise at a proper fitness level, and forget about “lose 10 pounds in 10 days” schemes. Getting skinny is a by-product of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Strive to reach the goal of a healthy lifestyle and getting skinny happens all by itself, you don’t even have to worry about it. This concept works everywhere: finance, relationships, parenting, career and life goals.

That all being said, it’s something I believe in; truly, in-my-heart believe this concept. And through years on a yoga mat, I never thought about “getting skinny” – it just wasn’t why I was there.

Tonight I found myself at my second Jazzercise class. I’m sitting on the floor stretching out, watching the others trickle in, thinking about how I’m about to do something good for my Self and my body. And out of nowhere, the thought, “And maybe I’ll get skinny” pops into my head!     STOP!    Whoa, where did that come from? I thought I had that one licked. Maybe it was because it wasn’t a yoga class… it feels more “fitnessy” at Jazzercise. I’m not sure. But I am proud of myself because I controlled my mind and pulled myself right off that stream of thought and back to why I was there: to move my body and breathe.

The Yoga Sutras talk a lot about how mental modifications (that’s the crap) stick around, buried deep inside your consciousness, waiting for just the right moment to spring back into your attention; it’s why progress takes so damn long. Now I’m curious to see if it will happen again. Well, that will help motivate me to get to the next class, and I need all the motivation I can get!

More quotes that I never want to forget. Please see my earlier post for my mea culpa about writing down people’s names.

Restrain the junk in your head, stop thinking about who you want to be and figure out who you already are.   Alison Ingenito

What you do is not as important as how it makes someone feel. What is your focus?

Action is the liberator of Intention.   Adam Kayce (Monk At Work)

You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.   Edward de Bono

Meet Fear with Enthusiasm.

Want what you have, don’t want what you don’t have.   Santosa meditation

May I find freedom from fear in my life. May I also in turn help others find freedom from fear in their lives. And may I meet the fear in our culture with the courage of the open heart, which acts with decisiveness but never divisiveness.

It’s not what happens, it’s how you react to it that makes it what it is.   Alison Ingenito

Laughter is more powerful than screams.   Sully (Monsters, Inc.)

In my office I have a growing collection of quotes on colorful post-its stuck to my cabinet. They are all items that, after I read them, I just had to immediately write them down for fear of forgetting them. They made my heart light up, a feeling of connection I’ve come to recognize as significant. Here are some of them (I don’t always remember to write down the author. I know, bad me. I apologize to whomever I’ve missed).

It’s not simply that we’re in the Universe… the Universe is in us.   Neil deGrasse Tyson

Disorganization, stress and chaos often come from trying to control what you can’t, and not controlling what you can. Conflict results.   Monica Ricci

What determines success in life? Action.

Be FOR something rather than AGAINST something. FOR = affirmative change and positive energy.

Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter? What do you contribute?   Seth Godin

What the mind expects, it finds.

Have an impact!

EXCELLENCE always!   Tom Peters

Begin with the end in mind.   Stephen Covey

Remember! Remember! Remember! Your life’s trajectory will be determined almost entirely by events which, by definition, cannot be planned for. Act accordingly. Whatever that means.   Tom Peters

Some people have asked if the glasses in the title refers to MY glasses. Nope.

My monkey mind is still bouncing from one illusion to another, but sees a bit clearer than it did before I started down this trail. So it’s kind of like wearing corrective lenses – it can see a bit more clearly with the help of what I’ve learned so far. Eventually, when all the crap is out of my mind and it is no longer deluded, it won’t need glasses at all. It will have 20/20 vision. And the monkey will be gone.

This might be several lifetimes from now! Ha! One step at a time.

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