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!

Advertisements

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.

Our home under 34" of snow

Maybe it’s the holidays or maybe it’s the 34″ of snow that fell last Sunday, but I’ve felt very grateful for my material possessions lately – especially my home. We don’t have a spacious house, somewhat over 1300 square feet on a 100′ square lot, but it is at least 50 years old with many charming oddities built in. Our home is perfect for our family of three (plus two adopted furballs). Quite cozy, we have the downstairs painted in warm shades of cocoa, cream, and butter, with wood furniture and lots of art (much of it made by us). There are many filled-to-the-brim bookshelves, and lots of family photos. One of the dearest compliments I’ve ever received was  “This is a creative home with really good energy.” A fine compliment indeed for a family of artists, musicians, and a future architect.

“A house is made of walls and beams, a home is built with love and dreams.” ~Anonymous

Today I found Meagan’s post about her home, and it really struck a chord. I believe I understand exactly how she feels, especially about the ethereal aspects of loving her home. Walking into my home makes me feel like I’m entering a warm, cozy nest that has been built with great care from decades of love, kindness, generosity and compassion. We have a space that is infused with positive energy and spirit, laughter and joy.

Thank you, little cottage that is our home, for keeping us warm and dry and content to spend our days within you.

“Home is the place where it feels right to walk around without shoes.” ~Anonymous

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.

I love the song Little Drummer Boy.

I love the Boy’s narrative, a simple story told with youthful innocence. I love how it illustrates that gifts, especially the best gifts, do not equate to money. I love how baby Jesus, his vision already so clear, gives back with what he has – a knowing smile. And I love how the Boy accepts this gift with utter grace.

I haven’t been blogging much, but I’ve been Tweeting and Facebooking (is that a word?) often. I usually check all my accounts around 5:15 am, just before I leave for work. As I sat down with Twitter on the morning of November first, it struck me  – I didn’t plan it, honest! – to write what I was thankful for every morning until Thanksgiving. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook have seen these, and I thank you for your comments. We had some nice discussions. My Twitter feed also shows on my blog homepage, but  sometimes I tweet often, so you may have missed what I was doing. Anyway, I figured I’d compile all the Tweets into one blog post for easy reference. Here ya go….

This year, Gayle is thankful for:

  1. All my loved ones are healthy
  2. My rights as an US citizen (it was Election Day)
  3. My little warm house
  4. Opportunities to improve myself
  5. The little furry ball of sweetness that greets me in the morning with a gift, and loves me unconditionally
  6. The sound of children’s (ok, teen!) voices in my home
  7. Sweats, thick newspapers, and friends who invite me out
  8. My husband who lets me follow my path, which isn’t always the same one he’s on
  9. Early morning TV weathermen, especially the goofy ones. I need goofy weather this early in the morning.
  10. Warm breakfasts and latte in a bottle
  11. Friends – online and in person
  12. My job. As frustrating as it can be, I have it, I’m good at it so it comes easy, and my coworkers are nice.
  13. I live close enough to major cities so I can enjoy them , but don’t have to live in them
  14. Modern medicine and pharmaceuticals that help people live life to the fullest
  15. Indoor plumbing, hot water, and electricity that I don’t have to think about
  16. Wonderful family and friends who love me
  17. A healthy body that works the way it’s designed to. Eyes that see, legs that walk, brain that thinks, heart that loves.
  18. All material things I have been blessed to have: food, clothing, shelter, car…
  19. That I live in a country with easy access to fresh food and clean water. And chocolate Rice Krispies.
  20. Meeting with groups of like-minded, and sometimes not like-minded, people where I can feel unity as well as learn
  21. So many generous people who are willing to donate to organizations that help others
  22. Warm Sun, silvery Moon, generous blue-green Earth
  23. The ability to read, and that the opportunities to educate myself through reading is boundless
  24. Laughter, things that make me laugh, and the joy of making someone laugh
  25. Time, and not just on holidays. Precious moments with family and friends, enjoy every second. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

“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!