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What is beyond the known?

I’ve been afraid to even speak of the changes that seem to be coming, lest I impart some weird cosmic vibration and mess it up.

However, I’ve told some and things still seem to be on track for the most part. Much insecurity, but even my horoscope – which I mostly read for fun, and usually after the day is done just to see if it was close to being accurate – has been telling me good changes are coming for at least a month now.

I’ve been wanting to do something different with my career life for a long time. I tried my own enterprise, but I didn’t have the energy to invest. Even so, it taught me much about myself. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to “run the show”, as the case may be. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and my choice of a positive attitude in the face of difficulty has been noticed. Long ago I decided to rethink my purpose at work, trying to make it more of a practice of selfless service than a career or job. The opportunity to serve people is there on many levels… serve a coworker in the normal course of business, serve a coworker who is in a jam, serve a friend who needs a favor, ultimately serve the customer way down the line – the one who has no idea I exist or stops to wonder how the drug they’re taking in an effort to save their life makes it into their veins, as it should be (they have bigger fish to ponder). Changing my perspective this way has made it much easier to get out of bed at 5 am every day.

I have chosen to live my life by this quote:

Peace: it does not mean to be away from noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart.

So simple. So difficult.

Anyway, the opportunity has arisen to do something else for a living. A short hop away from my present role, but a huge leap in knowledge base and responsibilities, a change in the people I would serve. I’ve been told by everyone I’ve whispered it to that I’d be very good in this job. I believe that, too. It still scares the crap out of me.

Another favorite quote, this has been taped to my desk for years:

Knowledge is the antidote to fear. ~Emerson

With that quote in mind, I’ve set up a plan. People to mentor me, people to shadow. Classes to take, learn how to listen and pay attention. I can’t control headcount, and Corporate America is notorious for dangling a carrot one minute and hitting you with a stick the next. Expectations are there to be demolished and disappointed, so I shall forge ahead with my plan yet still take the tack of letting the path lead me.

Perhaps, if it’s in the cards, and I’ve made the right choices, and karma is in my favor, and the stars align… maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to make a definitive statement and not talk myself into spirals, worried that the cosmic gate will slam in my face or hit me in the ass.

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I haven’t blogged in a long time.

I’ve had ideas rolling around in my head, but none of them wants to bloom. Perhaps they’ll emerge some day. I have to let them do as they wish – they won’t be forced, it just pushes them further down into my subconscious. Sometimes these little nuggets pop out better as Tweets or Facebook statuses.

Something I have wanted to write about is my practice between March 4 and April 25. Due to unusual circumstance, work was incredibly busy and stressful for those seven weeks. I had to work late many, many nights which threw my meditation and exercise practices way out of whack. What saved me is my belief in mindfulness – that every thing I do during the day can be meditation if I choose to be mindful. I had mentally prepared and decided that I would choose to stay calm, have a sense of humor, and consider it all selfless service or karma yoga. Even though the stress and long days actually sent my resistance so low that by the end I got a nasty cold (I am rarely ill), I never freaked out, yelled or snarked at anyone, and kept a smile in my heart the entire time. Ego is pretty proud of that! (Body was pretty angry once the exercise kicked back in.) My tattoo and LIVE SLOW signs helped keep me focused. I’m so visual.

Much has happened in the world.

The Arab Spring made me think about a Nostradamus show I saw years ago once that predicted an evil, Arab-looking man would come to rule the entire world. Yet here are the youth of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya (to name a few) choosing to protest and fight for change in their countries. It’s an interesting turn of events, and I hope the people in Arab countries find a way to live productive, peaceful lives. Maybe I’m naïve, but I believe Arab moms want to see their children grow up healthy, strong, educated, and peace-loving. Just like all the other moms around the world.

Osama bin Laden is no longer walking this Earth, which can’t be a bad thing. It’s not in me to cheer any death, but I understand why some did and if that’s the emotion they were feeling then fine with me. He’d been on the lam so long, now that he’s finally gone it feels odd – like when a childhood celebrity dies… I can’t believe it actually happened and everything is a bit different now.

I found the whole Obama birth certificate thing funny. You just knew the minute they released it someone would pick it apart and claim it’s Photoshopped. Puh-leeze. As for Donald Trump… when nonsense like him actually affects political polls, that is a sad moment in American history.

Hopefully an idea will decide to bloom soon because I like to write. It has been a pretty nice spring so far, with summer right around the bend and I’ve been able to spend more time outside watching my trees sway in the breeze. Inspiration can’t be too far.

I hear from friends all the time, “I have no time!”, “My to-do list is too long!”, “Why can’t I ever get everything done?”

Time is a precious commodity, as we only have so much and we have no idea how much we have. It amazes me how people give it away so freely. There are several tricks that can help you get your time management under control, but one of the best tips comes in the form of a story. I’ve seen this story attributed to various sources, so I won’t attempt to even try. You’ve probably seen this already, but if you haven’t here’s the story:

The teacher stood in front of his students and put a large, wide-mouthed jar on a table in front of him. He produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is the jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped the gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

He asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time, the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in, and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this demonstration?”

One student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your life is,  you can always fit in some more!”

“No!” the speaker replied. “That is not the point. The lesson is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are your big rocks? Time with family? Quiet time for yourself? A special project? A cause? Focus on your big rocks first. If it’s truly important, don’t worry, the gravel will transform into big rock all by itself when it needs to. Remember, there is a difference between “busy” and “productive”.

Be sure to prioritize your big rocks, then rest and rebalance. Otherwise, there is always way more gravel than rocks.

Because I am such a visual person, my SLOW campaign (mentioned here with another link back to original 2009 posting) keys on having little signs posted all over in places that are obnoxiously in my line of sight. For example, I stick them on my computer monitors, my dashboard in the car, my medicine cabinet, and above the spot where I dump my purse every evening. I move them around to other annoying places as soon as I realize I’ve stopped looking at them.

The current signage was, literally, a slow sign such that you’d see in a construction zone on the highway: a yellow diamond with black type saying SLOW. These are getting pretty beat up, and I barely see them anymore so I’ve updated them:

I’ve added verbiage to this version as an extra reminder of when I should be doing something slowly. I don’t list every opportunity (the list would have gone on forever), but this is enough to jar me into mindfulness. These are now printed about 2″ x 3″ and I’ll be posting them right away.

LIVE SLOW in 2011!

For a long time I’ve been searching for a way to keep a physical reminder of my practice in front of me.

For my SLOW campaign, which will be moving into 2011, I printed out little signs and hung them all over. They work as long as I occasionally move them so they stay annoyingly in my line of sight, and I will not only continue using them, but I’ll be freshening them up with a new design.

The slow signs don’t represent my entire practice, however. I wanted something that was with me all the time, like a mantra I could see. I’m a very visual person. I tried jewelry: bracelets, necklaces. But I get sick of wearing the same bracelets. No, time for something else, something a bit more – ummm, permanent?

Ah, a tattoo! I got one on my ankle years ago, so I  knew what to expect. Now, the difficult questions of: what, where and when? I’ve been pondering doing this for a very long time and had an idea bouncing around in my head. I received a lovely silver pendant from my hubby a few years back: it’s a small square with the word “shanti” embossed on it.

Shanti translates to “peace” in english, and has always been my default spiritual mantra. For me, the word “peace” sums up a slew of concepts including non-attachment, balance, non-duality, contentment, lovingkindness, joy, and more. There is a quote that I really love:

“Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

Because you will never escape noise, trouble, and hard work. Or pain, stress, and jerks either. You have to be able to deal with those things without being dragged through the emotional mud.

But, I digress….

This summer my friend Karen told me she was thinking of getting a tattoo so I took it as a sign and we decided to go together. She researched the place while I finalized my artwork.  I knew I wanted it on my wrist, a place that is in front of me all the time. It took time to get all our details in order, which landed us in the middle of the holiday season as well as a freak blizzard. It was even snowing today; when I asked Karen if we were going she wrote back, “YES!” And off we went.

The top symbol is “Om”, which has too many meanings (or, perhaps, non-meanings?) to go into in this post. The bottom symbol is “Shanti”. The tattoo as a whole basically translates to “universal peace”.

I’m pretty pumped up, I think it came out great. One of the tattoo guys said I was putting it on upside-down, but what would be the point if I couldn’t read it? It’s there for me, not for everyone else! I often wear a stack of bracelets on that wrist anyway which will obscure it. But that’s okay.

I just like knowing it’s there.

Reading  my 2009 post about 2010 resolutions, I realize I forgot all about my mantra of  “Be the Buddha” this year! Funny. Sometimes things stick and sometimes they don’t.

Seth Godin’s post asking “What did you ship in 2010?” put me in review mode. I have a pretty horrible memory, but I started thinking about the past year. What did I ship in 2010?

While I absolutely wasn’t 100% spot-on all the time, I can comfortably say I shipped on these intentions:

  • Keep cool at work. I think I was a pretty good teammate and coworker. I take my share of any blame going around, and I give credit where it’s due. I work hard to not sweat the small stuff, and I try to keep those around me calm, focused and realistic.
  • Keep cool at home. Stay patient and collected. Handle stress calmly and without drama. I don’t think I did much yelling this year – some, but less than in the past. I’m doing better on that.
  • Stay involved with people. Don’t live in your head, interact with people. I have made a greater effort to build new friendships and strengthen existing ones, staying connected either face-to-face or electronically.
  • Take care of my Self. I committed to more physical exercise, even if I did bail out sometimes. I caught a yoga class, which I dearly miss, when I could schedule it. My SLOW plan is heading into the 4th year. I put a system in place to remind me to pause and breathe at work, and I’ve done some quiet sitting at home in the evenings.

As I stated last year, I don’t do resolutions based on the calendar. If I’m not ready to change, I won’t be able to. But I do take a little time in January to think ahead. It works best for me if I  build upon what’s been working and expand it.

  • Continue with SLOW. I feel it getting stale; I have to find a way to shake it up a bit so it stays in the forefront of my mind. Commit to sit more often, I know it does a lot of good.
  • More effort not to sweat the small stuff at work. I do well, but I can do better. And while “gossip” in a corporate environment is almost required if you want to understand the culture you’re working in, I can do less venting and more accepting. Open ears, close mouth.
  • Better effort to exercise twice a week, or more. I know as soon as the weather gets nice and my family is hanging out in the backyard this will be tough, so maybe I need to find something I can do at home – at least walk more.

Throughout 2011, and probably for the rest of my life, I will think back to my favorite moment in 2010 to garner strength and remind myself that I’m so very grateful for the life I have been given. After my 40th birthday party this summer, when everyone had gone home, I sat outside soaking up the remaining positive energy. It washed over me like a tidal wave of love, so powerful that I thought my heart would burst. This feeling stuck with me for several days – I was floating around on cloud 9! If that is what Enlightenment feels like, then I see why people dedicate their lives to attaining it permanently.

Wishing you and your loved ones a joyous, healthy, prosperous and wonderful New Year! Peace and love.

“Go over and over your beads, paint weird designs on your forehead, wear your hair matted, long, and ostentatious, but when deep inside you there is a loaded gun, how can you have God?” ~ Kabir

We are nice to our coworkers – until that one jerk steals our idea. We patiently run our errands – until the woman with 20 items is ahead of us on the express line. We are courteous drivers – until the turkey in the giant SUV cuts us off. We go about our days following the usual childhood rules – until something pushes our buttons and compassion goes out the window. You can call that something Satan, or evil, or human nature, whatever. But that devil is us. We choose our behaviors, there is no way around that. We allow the fear and anger to take over for a little while, and after we mess up, we ask forgiveness. We are forgiven. Then we go right back to our usual patterns of thinking of ourselves as the center of the Universe.

With effort, we can break out of the cycle. Mindfulness is a difficult path to walk, but it works. All those self-help tricks: deep breaths, counting to ten, thinking of a STOP sign when you feel the emotions coming… they all help to snap you out of the moment, push that evil away and stay focused on the way you want to behave.

I just finished reading Immaculee Ilibagiza’s story Left to Tell, her awe-inspiring story of surviving Rwanda’s genocide through luck and prayer, silently hidden in a tiny bathroom with seven other women for three months. I read this book in four hours, couldn’t put it down, and recommend it highly whether you believe in the power of prayer or not.

So many murders, wars, genocides; so much hate and insanity in God’s name, it’s amazing. There is an email joke that goes around occasionally, an email from God and boy he’s pretty pissed at what he’s seeing go on in his name. “Truth in jest” at its finest.

I believe there is one omniscient Truth, and it’s wise enough to know that not every ignorant human is going to receive it in the same way. We enjoy going through life looking through our me-colored glasses. Me me me me me. It only goes to figure that we need that Truth to come to us in a package that will break through whatever filters we’re wearing and resonate with our hearts. Truth’s name is God, since we can’t resist sticking a label on everything we see, hear, touch, smell and taste.

God has a huge closet, with an outfit for every occasion and sensibility. Some people need God to wear flowing white robes and live in the clouds, while some need God to wear saffron robes. Some need God to wear a crown of thorns, and some see God – and Goddesses –  in all of nature’s splendor. Some see God wearing bejeweled turbans, while some don’t use the name God at all but still recognize the beauty of the Universe’s energy in its atomic and molecular building blocks, chemistry and physics.

All of these ways Truth comes to us, they are all legitimate. They all work. They all preach the same thing: compassion, balance, kindness. The words are a little different, the translations from ancient languages may not be perfect, but the lesson is there. The Golden Rule is the same no matter what book, scroll, or tablet you find it in.

I don’t know – to me it seems so simple. When I find a fact that is backed up by other vetted sources, I believe it until I find it to be untrue. We have at least seven, probably more like ten, major religions (or non-religions, as the case may be) on this planet and they all point in the same direction.

Truth wears many costumes to help us see it. But as it flows through us, it looks the same. It looks like love.

Do you get the munchies after exercising? I know I do. And, oddly, I’m usually in the mood for something healthy! How weird is that? I still sometimes like something sweet, so I try to keep some dried fruit on hand – sometimes to eat by itself, or sometimes to throw in a salad (craisins for salad, usually. Apricots otherwise).

I know some people crave carbs and chemicals – mostly in the form of Snickers bars and diet soda! If you really crave a sugary snack after exercising, try keeping some fruit snacks (the good, expensive kind that are made of real fruit, not those cartoon-shaped ones you feed the kids) in your gym bag.

If you need the mouth sensation of eating a cookie, avoid the fattening cookies and try for one that’s not so bad. You can have 8 Nilla wafers for 140 calories, as opposed to only 2 Double Stuffed Oreos for the same calorie hit. When it comes to a sugar crave, eight is way better than two.

Sometimes best intentions get off track. Due to 40% schedule issues, 40% late nights at work, and 20% laziness, I’m off my Jazzercise schedule and am feeling like quite the fat cow. I’ve made an effort to get there at least once a week, because I learned the hard way that skipping whole weeks drops my endurance level back to zero and I’d rather not have a coronary in the middle of a ballroom surrounded by sweaty women in yoga pants.

Screwy schedule/work issues can’t always be mitigated, and often snowball into continued poor choices: take-out dinners, late night chores, submitting to exhaustion instead of attempting some meditation, reading, or even just sitting quietly. Eh, I’m human… forgive oneself and get back on the path.

Looks like I can get home on-time tonight, and thanks to my exercise buddy I will get there tonight – my last chance for this week. Now if my stuff-my-face Chinese food lunch digests by then, I’ll be all good!

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