Tag Archive | compassion

Feeling Free to Say “I Am Less Than Able Today”

Image by Lori PortkaWhy do I still feel embarrassed to express to my “well-bodied” friends that I am less-than-able on many days? Partly, I struggle to find the right words; the delicate balance between clear explanation and what I fear may sound like whiney complaining.

And then there is the bigger problem: the fact that I look so well. Especially on the days that my friends do see me. Because it is the days that I feel well enough to wash my hair (perhaps!), put on some makeup, get out of my lounge clothes, smile, and be present, that I also am able to keep my plans with them. They’re not seeing me on the days when my arms feel like 20lb. weights, too heavy to lift and brush the bed-tangles out of my hair. Or when I am still wearing what I woke up in, which many times even means what I went to bed in, because I was too exhausted to do anything but take off my bra the night before!

And truth be told, the sound and timber and strength of my voice doesn’t often change that much when my physical body is feeling poorly. And for me, my larynx can be in spasm causing hoarseness when I do feel well. So since that’s such a poor barometer for “feeling well vs. feeling poorly,” why is it then that people seem to think that what they hear over the phone lines is some sort of truth serum?

How many of you have heard those dreaded words, “Oh, but, you sound so good today! I’m glad!”

Unfortunately, they are often spoken before I’ve even had a chance to say how I am truly doing. So, I hesitate. Because it gets tiring saying, “um, thanks. But, actually, I’m not doing so hot today.” And even with my most well-intentioned friends and loved ones, I sometimes hear skepticism creep into their response. Because it just doesn’t make sense: but they sound so good…?

I share this all because I think it is a helpful reminder for anyone: both those of us struggling with day-to-day- fluctuations in our physical (or mental) capabilities and for those who are friends to, family members of, or caregivers for (including professionals) those with these “Invisible Illnesses.”

A quick reminder: Invisible Illnesses encompass a wide range of conditions and diseases. Take the common condition of arthritis, even. Yes, a joint could be swollen or red, but many times it can ache with no outward physical manifestation. So now think of all the conditions that effect our “internal systems,” from brain chemistry, to GI disorders, blood, vein and heart conditions, nervous system pain and disruption, connective tissue deterioration… the list goes on and on. These are the “Invisible Illnesses” that hide behind an external mirage of wellness. Wouldn’t it be handy if when something was ailing or failing on the inside, a bright red “warning spot” would emerge on an external location?! I sure would find this handy! Not only for letting others visibly know something painful is going on, but also to help pin-point for both myself and my doctors, what system is causing the pain.

Since this warning system technology is yet to be invented, we have to trust what people say. To take them at their word. You don’t have to completely understand what someone is describing to give them love, support and empathy. And unconditional trust in their word.

Sometimes I worry (too much so) that the person I am sharing my ills of the day with will think I am only saying it to get out of seeing them. At least for me, this is never the case! In fact, I am one to mask my true feelings of pain and discomfort just to avoid hurting or disappointing another. I know I am not alone in this.

So what can we all do as a collective group who cares for one another, to combat this?

For the “well-bodied” loved one:

  1. Don’t Assume: Don’t assume just because we sound okay, or even because we look okay, that we feel okay. Don’t assume that because we were able to yesterday, we will be able to today. Or even, if we were able 15 minutes ago, that our bodies’ are still feeling as abled in This minute.
  2. Listen: Please ask us how we are really doing. And then give us the space to truthfully answer. Take our answers at face value; please don’t judge or question (or fill in the blank!).
  3. Don’t feel like you need to fix the situation. All we really need is acceptance and acknowledgement: “Wow that sounds hard/painful/frustrating. I am sorry you are feeling so lousy/cruddy/down today.”
  4. It’s okay to ask “Is there any way I can be of support to you/help you right now?” But also know that we may not have an answer for that. It’s not that we don’t want your help (and I always like hearing a sincere offer from a friend), it’s just that: 1. We may not truly know of any way that you can help right now and 2. Many times all we need is space and time to heal. Which leads me to…
  5. Give us space without expectations. We know (believe me!) how hard it is to accept that there is no clear pattern to our symptoms. We may feel better in 1 day, 3 days, maybe even 30 minutes and that can be frustrating. So we just ask for your patience as we navigate the unknown.
  6. Don’t stop asking. This is a big one! And I don’t mean “don’t stop asking how we are doing” (although that’s a good thing, too); I mean don’t stop asking us to do things. Because there still are many days when we are able. And spending time with you, helping you out and supporting you, still means a lot to us. This is what feeds our soul and keeps us striving to be and get well.

Now, onto the “Invisible Illness” group:

  1. It’s Okay. You’re okay. You are whole and complete exactly as you are. That was hard for me to write, because I am not just saying it to you, I am saying it to myself. “I am whole exactly as I am.” You/I/WE do not have to be anything other than what we are capable of being. We did not create these illnesses nor are we using them as a crutch to “get out of things.” They inhibit what we can do on a daily business, but they are not the all of us.
  2. We are not defined by our illness. Our friends like and love us for who we are: the pure essence of us, our true spirit. Not for our physical abilities or dis-abilities. And if that is how someone defines “compatibility” in a relationship, they are not the kind of supportive friend you need, or deserve.
  3. Speak your truth. Don’t sugar-coat the situation. You don’t need to go into great length or detail (unless you need/want to). Just be clear and concise. Remember we are speaking a language only other people with chronic illnesses can understand. A friend of mine with varying daily abilities can say just one word to me, or give me that look, and I get it. It’s not going to be that way with all of our friends and caregivers, so…
  4. Be patient. You may need to explain your daily needs and limitations over and over again. This can feel frustrating or maybe even like the other person is questioning your authenticity. In most cases, this isn’t true. Remember: it’s a foreign language, and people don’t learn to comprehend a foreign tongue overnight! Most times, our loved ones keep asking questions, only because they want to understand.
  5. If someone asks how they can help, and you can think of a way, ASK IT. Don’t be stoic. Don’t hope that they’ll just guess at what you need. (How could they?!). And don’t ever feel embarrassed. This last one happens to me. Because I start to think “But, I should be able to do this.” Trust that if someone offers to help, their offer is sincere and that if what you ask for is too much for them, they will let you know. Think how helpful it would be to have someone cook you a meal, or run an errand/do a household chore, or even help you to color your hair.
  6. Remember that friendship is based on unconditional love. Our friends and lovers chose us for the person we bring out in them, just as we love them for the person they bring out in ourselves. We are all here to be our best selves, but that does not mean trying to be something other than you are. Or can be, physically. There is more to you, there is more to me, than our physicality.

It is up to all of us to spread the word on Invisible Illnesses. To take the stigma and mis-understanding out of them. Because millions and millions of us walk around looking “just like everyone else,” while on the inside of bodies are crumbling.

The first step to undoing all the misconceptions around these illnesses, is to start with a deeper understanding of each other, on a one to one basis. Which includes a deeper understanding of our own needs and abilities, followed by acceptance of same. It’s time to embrace all that we do bring to the world rather than all that we do not!

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May I Decide For You?

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Why do we profess to know what’s best for others? Especially loved ones? Is it because we think we know them intimately more than they even know themselves? This is something that often happens with those battling chronic illness and daily limitations.

Our loved ones, out of fear of pushing us too far (IE: making us “sicker”), make decisions based on our well-being without ever consulting us. Many times, these decisions are made behind closed minds, during the pre-conversation/contemplation phase and we never even know different possibilities existed. And because they are never presented to us, we are never given the opportunity to make our own choices (and, yes, even mistakes).

The decision has already been made for us, under the guise of “loving-kindness.” I know that I have been on the receiving end of this kind of decision making multiple times, especially from my husband. My most recent example occurred in an interaction with a dear friend:

Over the last couple years, I have been mentoring this friend. I was, from the beginning, clear and honest about my physical time limitations but committed to communicating in alternative ways; and asked that if our relationship agreement ever stopped working because of these restrictive parameters, she not hesitate to approach me about her changing needs. We went into the partnership with what I thought was an equal agreement. Then, just a few days back, she abruptly let me know that our arrangement was no longer working and she had already found another mentor.

As much as I respect her needs, I was taken aback by the one-sided decision making. When pressed, she explained that she honors the physical place that I am in and would never want to put un-due pressure on me. So she found someone more “well-bodied” and flexible with their schedule. She thought she was coming from a place of loving-kindness.

But, in fact, she took equality right out of our equation. Out of concern for pressuring me, she took away my opportunity to know and express what is right for me. To check in with my own body and decide whether I could do more to meet her needs or not.

What was removed from our relationship was trust in the other person to know themselves, and respect for whatever decision they make. Regardless of our own opinion.

Let me highlight some ways we all do this in relationships:
– Our partner gets anxious in social situations, so we avoid telling them about upcoming engagements until the last minute, so they don’t unduly fret.
– Our parent worries when we travel, so we hide trips from them until we get home, as not to overly stress them.
– We have friends who have chosen to no longer drink, so we don’t invite them to events where there will be a lot of “celebrating,” so they won’t be tempted.
– A co-worker tends to react strongly when asked to do a project, so instead of giving them the chance to process and respond, we just do everything ourselves to avoid a possible conflict.

We tell ourselves “loving-kindness” stories: “I don’t want this (person I care for) to feel bad/sad/disappointed/stressed/worried…” We’ve already analyzed the situation in our heads, come to the conclusion of how the choice will negatively affect the other person, how they will respond, and what we will do to avoid this.

But, remember, when you make a choice for a loved one, you are no longer looking at them as an equal.

Those of us with chronic illness often struggle with feelings of being “less-than” (as many well-bodied folks do, too!). We already have to limit so many facets of our daily lives. But, we can still make conscious, thoughtful decisions for ourselves.

Doesn’t every adult want to be perceived as trustworthy of their own truth?

And the thing is. . .

We very well may make poor decisions! We may over-commit which over-taxes our bodies or minds.

BUT… that’s how we learn. How much is too much. And how much is just right.

If the right to make our own choices is removed, we are never able to find the balance on our own.

One of the worst things, is discovering after the fact that you could have been a participant in the decision making process, and that was taken away from you. It’s way worse to learn later that a group of friends went out dancing but didn’t invite you only because they didn’t want you to feel bad because your body is ill-equipped to dance right now. A much better scenario is to be given that choice and decide whether you want to sit and watch at the club or if it’s better to stay home, but it sure felt nice to be including in the invite!

So, next time you find yourself making a pre-emptive decision for another out of loving-kindness, try for a different approach:
– Tell that person about the choice and kindly express your concerns for their well-being.
– Let them know you trust them to make the right decision for themselves in that moment.
– Remind them that you’ll support whatever choice they make; and will give them the respect of keeping lines of communication and gentle observation open.

In all interactions, remember that a partnership means that each party is on equal ground.

These Are My Graces…

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Yesterday, was my father’s birthday. He passed 4 years ago and so with the day brings a deep sense of melancholy, and yet… all I feel is JOY at the myriad of ways his spirit shines through me every moment of every day.

Today, I am in more physical pain then I have been in years. Meds have been changed, symptoms flared, and yet… all I feel is GRATITUDE that I am able to be with my closest family today; the ones who do not expect me to be anything other than me.

A couple days ago a dearest friend called in deep distress over the sudden loss of her closest mate, her dog. And my mind reeled with the age old question, “Do we close ourselves off to love to protect against the pain of loss?” And yet… all I feel is BLESSED at the way every being in my life has shaped me; has made me a better person. I have lost a lot… and yet I have also lived a life full of love.

Today, I turn on the news and once again bear witness to the tragedies of war and famine, death and disease, throughout the world, and yet… all I see is STRENGTH in the faces of my brethren, and the little acts of KINDNESS that are woven through the stories of strife.

THESE ARE MY GRACES…

The way I live my life… the way I view the world.

Threaded through my heart, coloring all that I see.

Influencing the way I treat others, and in turn, the deep compassion in which I am treated.

It is seeing a world full of ABUNDANCE instead of loss.

Grace, no longer reserved for just the Christian community… it is there, right there. Every Where. For every one of us.

Ripe for the picking.

Grace is not a thing you can earn, or deserve, or create, or even lose.

You do not have to be “redeemed” by grace; we are all gifts of grace.

It is always there. It is in the sparkle of newly fallen snow, blanketing the world in a clean, new slate.

It is in a child’s smile as they crack open from ear to ear at the mere sight of you.

It is in the gentle pressure of two hands as they encircle you in love, in support, in comfort.

It is the feeling in your heart when you give of yourself, passing the grace, to another.

It surprises us. When we are at the end of our ropes, Grace appears with an extension piece to help us get our feet placed firmly on the ground again.

It astounds us. A reminder that “no matter how tragic or bleak things get, the bad simply can’t shut out all the good, the dark can’t squeeze out all the light.”

It is our safety net: woven from the hands of loved ones, the history of passed ones, the memories of times survived, the hope that there will always be a brighter day ahead, and the knowledge that this too shall pass, and that in this moment, grace shimmers below the surface of everything.

And although GRACE is an unexpected, yet utterly amazing, gift waiting to be opened anew each day, you can still be an active participant in grace….

Pull grace into your life. Tonight at dinner, invite everyone to share their best “Grace Story.” This a great way to express gratitude for the ways grace has graced your life; and to role-model this attitude for others, especially children.

Be a witness to Grace’s magic. We’ve all heard of Bird Watchers, now it’s time to become a “Grace Watcher!” Keep a grace journal, where you document the ways grace has worked or appeared in your life each day. Review it at the end of the week and be uplifted.

Be a Giver of Grace. Look around today. Who in your life needs to be reminded that grace is still working in their lives; who needs to be uplifted by a moment of grace? Is there a way you can pass the grace this Thanksgiving, without that person ever knowing where it came from? Challenge yourself to this. It will be surprisingly rewarding: doing a random act of grace just because.

Turn yourself over to grace. Choose a day during the upcoming holiday season where you put your calculated “To-Do List” down for a day. Let grace guide your day instead. Trust that what needs to get done, will.

And most importantly, be open to grace. Center yourself each day with a short mantra. Mine is, “May my mind, eyes and heart be open today to seeing and receiving the gifts of grace that cross my path.” The challenge comes in accepting the gift of grace in whatever form it comes. No “return to sender.” Remember if at first I doesn’t seem like the right fit, try again. Grace often appears in unexpected ways and at unexpected times, and yet it is always just what you need in the moment to get by.

“The winds of grace are always blowing,

but you have to raise the sail.”

{Ramakrishna}

Dear Life…

hug you well

Dear Life,

You have been unpredictable and you always keep me on my toes.

At times, I even dream of trading you in for a newer, shinier model.

I can develop “life envy” when comparing mine to others around me.

Sometimes I want to scream, “What the heck is the meaning of all this?
“What is the purpose of living a Life such as the one I’ve been given?!”

But, in the end, I always come back to the same answer…

THIS is My Life and I wouldn’t trade it.

I wouldn’t want it taken away from me.

I wouldn’t want to be robbed of the chance to live it.

And, then, Life, you’ll throw me another curve ball.
Like the one that was lobbed at me yesterday…

Time for another emergency surgery,” Life reminds me with the insistent alarm that keeps going off in my side. This time, the snooze button does nothing to delay this scheduled appointment with My Life.

And I am reminded, “Tam, just because this is the hand Life has dealt you, doesn’t mean you have to play it alone!

So I reach out to others.

Some surround me instantly with Love and Support.

Some even put their own Lives’ on hold for a bit, to help me navigate mine.

But I also discover that many, the ones I most need and crave right now, are so used to Tam’s Life, that this is just another regular ol’ occurrence for her.

No need to worry. Don’t be alarmed. We’ll just go on with our Lives and pretend that everything is just fine.

And they’re right, I am used to a different quality of Life than most.I have had to catch these fast balls many previous times.
And in the end, I’ve always come back swinging, “Watcha got next for me Life? Huh? Huh?!

But, what if this is The End, Life?

What if I’ve already played out my 9 Lives?

Just because I’ve gone through this before, doesn’t mean I, too, don’t battle the arch-nemeses of Life; Fear, Anger, Hurt, Insecurity, and Loneliness.

If anyone else in my circle of family and friends was facing a similar uncertain future, we would all drop everything to be by their sides, to Fight for their Lives.

Yesterday, when I was signing my release for surgery, the surgeon was going over the four long lines of possible (and many, probable) risk factors involved with this procedure. The last two were: “Heart Attack” and “Death.” And you know what he said, Life? “Well, you’ve already had both of those, so you know the risks involved with these complications.” Chuckle. Chuckle.

BOTH of those? Meaning “death,” too.
And, you know what, he’s right.
Because I have not only met my Life, I have also met my Death. Twice.

So, is this supposed to make me feel less scared?
Because it doesn’t.

Yet, when I inform my closest loved ones of this impending, very serious and complicated surgery, happening in just 2 days’ time, they respond, “Okay.”

Okay? Isn’t that what you say when you let someone know you have to reschedule lunch because you’re having a tooth filled?

But, that just highlights how insanely crazy You are, Life. So insane, that insanity begins to appear as normalcy.

And, yet, I still wouldn’t trade you in.

I want to keep living you, Life.

I still have uncharted parts of myself and the world that I want to explore.

I still have so much love, light and energy to give to others.

And I still have a great big capacity to receive that love back.

As I write you this letter, I sit outside in the waxing and waning sun. Watching as it plays hide-n-seek with the clouds. I listen to the one of a kind bird song symphony, never to be repeated at any other time nor in any other place. A unique crescendo of my backyard birds, a concert for one.

I listen to the traffic coming and going on the expressway behind my house. And I dream of where they are headed. I dream of where I next want to go.

I can feel the soothing, loving presence of my husband as he gets ready inside. The one person who has born witness to the all of you, My Life. And never takes for granted the extreme pressure I am under…

I am constantly pushing you up hill. But, I am up for the battle.

I do not planning on meeting your shadow self, Death, again for a long time to come.

But, I also know it is not solely up to me.

So I’ll make a deal with you, Life…
Don’t give up on me and I won’t give up on you.

Love,
Tamara
aka: HopeSpirit

You Are a Spark of the Divine

people-climbing-helping-each-other

“Imagine a tiny spark of the essence of God existing deep within each of us, like a tiny flickering candle within this dark room.  If our minds and emotions are distracted by the competing spotlights of greed and wealth, jealousy and lust, pain and depression, elation and euphoria, or even thought itself, we become blinded from seeing the tiny flickering candle in the center of our atman, our soul.” [Spoken by a character in Breathe of God, while describing the foundation of Hinduism and subsequently many religions, based on The Upanishads]

A dear friend commented on my post, Shine On, Soul Beacons, Shine On (click link), stating that she sees her energy as the Divine that flows through her and outward, keeping her replenished.  And I heartily agree! But she also mentioned concern over giving her energy away (depleting herself) or taking on the energy of other’s (not wanting to take on negative, fearful, hurtful energy).  This is a concern I’ve heard echoed by others, so I thought it was a good place to start a dialogue.

I picture my energy source as a “River of Grace,” an ever-flowing stream of Universal love and energy.  Yet any river will go stagnant if it is stuck in one place.  Therefore, by letting it flow outwards and shine on others (no matter who they are), I am constantly keeping my divine river charged with healing energy.  This is much harder to explain than to experience!  So you will have to practice you own techniques and see what is best for you (see starting point at end of post).

I warn against pre-determining who has positive energy that you want to share in versus those you see as containing negative energy you want to stay away from.  I found that those with the most negative, caustic outlooks are the ones who are hurting the most; who most desperately need someone to see them, and share their light and love.  It is not up to us to decide who “deserves” the light of the divine.  A person’s exterior rarely reflects the true nature of what lies beneath. (Think about yourself, with chronic illness, and the oft-heard comment, “but you look so good!”).  No one wants to be pre-judged by their “cover.”

There is no “giving your energy away to the extent of depletion.”  The divine source is endless!  The problem lies in each of us living in fear of this imagined depletion, and keeping the light of our Soul Beacons all to ourselves. 

Rabbi Laurence Kushner wrote, “If everything is connected to everything else, than everyone is ultimately responsible for everything.  The more we comprehend our mutual interdependence, the more we fathom the implications of our most trivial acts.  We find ourselves within a luminous organism of sacred responsibility.”

This is not a burden, it is a gift!  We are there for others, as they are there for us.

I’d like to leave you with some final “food for thought:” a simple exercise you can attempt at any time…

Next time you go to the store, notice if you feel harried or overwhelmed.  Many times we move through the store as zombies; trying to “get on” with this chore so we can start living our “real” lives.  Instead of looking as your trip to the store just a place to pick up food fuel for your body, try to look for opportunities to re-fuel your Soul Beacon, too.

The best place to do this is in the check-out lane.  Watch the cashier while you’re waiting in line.  Observe the interactions.  Most times, there is little if no eye contact between cashier and customer.  The customer may even be complaining or perhaps even ignoring the cashier, tapping their foot in exasperation.

There are so many moments in our life where we are only waiting for the next moment when our life will begin, instead of seeing each moment as a possible beginning. 

Use this lesson as a new beginning.  When it’s your turn at the cash register, greet the cashier by name and ask them how they are doing.  Perhaps make a sympathetic comment about how busy they are today or that they look like they could use a break. If you don’t know how to pronounce their name, use that as a starting point (“What an unusual name.  How do you pronounce it? Oh, hi ________, that’s very pretty!”)  You will be amazed at the physical transformation in this person that has changed from a “cashier” into a “human being.”

Treat this person as you would want to be treated.  No matter how hurried you are, think about this pretty thankless job this person is doing; one that makes your life easier.  As you engage them in conversation, notice how much quicker the time goes.  And even more importantly, notice the physical change in the cashier.  Most times they start to stand straighter, make eye contact and smile. 

Now this is the most important part of the exercise: when the transaction is complete, say “Thank you” and their name.  If nothing else, just doing this one part will make a difference.  For both of you.

As you leave, you may want to look back.  I am always amazed at how differently the cashier now approaches the next customer… with a warm greeting, with a proud stance.  That’s their Soul Beacon recharged, now shining their light on another.

Notice yourself.  How do you feel?  That’s your Soul Beacon glowing brightly.  Not only did you shine your light on another when you were feeling depleted, that light recharged their energy and, in return, they shone back on you, recharging your own energy source.

This is a simple yet very clear way to see energy in action… being passed from one, back to another, and on to the next.  You’ve started a chain reaction.  The more you practice this (at the bank, gas station, restaurants, etc.) the more natural it will become. And, soon, you will notice that others around you are exhibiting similar, positive energy-interactions. . .  because this process is contagious. 

“Divine abundance follows the laws of service and generosity.  Give and then receive.  Give to the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.”  (Paramahansa Yogananda)

Shine On, Soul Beacon, Shine On!

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I have mentioned in many of my posts the idea that each of us has our own Soul Beacon. This is a concept that came to me organically during a moment of extreme illness.  It was a vision and even more so, a “knowing,” that I felt soon after my first near death experience. I was in a “stripped down state,” mentally, physically and most certainly spiritually.  I felt raw and exposed.  But, in this vulnerable state of being, I opened myself up to being completely vulnerable.  I felt as connected and observant as a child when discovering something new in their environment.  I became aware of the flow of energy between people.

I started to notice that energy exchanges could be both positive and negative; they could either lift one up or drain them entirely.  This was not just a feeling; I actually visually experienced this phenomenon. That insight gave me an intuitive knowledge of human interactions that I hold to this day.  When people exchanged laughter or encouraging words, streams of soothing, white strands of light would connect the interacting parties.  I saw this as a “recharging of the soul.”  It was pure energy, being given and being received.

Conversely, when an exchange was less then pleasant or supportive, there wasn’t a free-flowing exchange of energy. The flow would become heavily one-sided, with one party literally “sucking the life” out of another. This would show itself in forms of jealousy, fear, anger, insecurity, and dominance.

I had a clear vision of a beacon of light.  I saw that each of us is born with a cache of energy.  But just like any form of energy, if it is not recharged (refueled), it will deplete.  And when our energy sources are low, we experience depression, illness, sadness, despair, fatigue, hopelessness, and diminishing spirituality.  Most people respond to this feeling by hoarding the small amount of energy they have left.   We don’t share this energy out of fear of running on empty.  But in that hospital room, I discovered the key to unlocking a never-ending supply of energy.  The key is…

You have to give your energy away in order to receive more for yourself.

Give it away?! Yep.   This is where the concept of a Soul Beacon comes in.  Imagine a lighthouse.  The night is foggy and therefore the beacon’s light source barely reaches beyond its own standing.   Now translate that to the situation I spoke of above.  You’re feeling “foggy” and out of sorts, so you only shine your light source on yourself.  You keep your depleting energy close at hand and do not include anyone else in your circle of light.  Eventually, that circle of light will get smaller and smaller until its hardly providing any energy source for you to face the world.  This is the moment when many want to curl up in a ball and tell the world to go away.

This is when you need to stretch your final energy source far and wide; to imagine that Soul Beacon, seated in the center of your body, stretching its fingers of light to illuminate others paths.  Because this is what happens when you do: that light shines on someone else in need; the receiver is then recharged from this positive exchange and shines their light back onto you.  You will feel your inner beacon growing in strength.  With each positive interaction, the foggy veil of sadness and fear will lift.  You will start to have energy to take that next step, and then another.  And the best part is, while you’re recharging your own energy source, you are also giving that gift to someone else!

Who are you going to illuminate today?

How can you reach out in order to replenish your own light source?

What choices can you make today from a place of compassion and faith whether than from fear and insecurity?

How can you shine your Soul Beacon from heart to heart?

Read the story I wrote of a young girl and an old sage in: It All Began With A Beacon of Hope (click link)

Please share your stories and experiences!

All It Takes Is a Little Note of LOVE

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Imagine my surprise when I discovered this “love note” (photo above) tucked in my mail amongst the bills, catalogs and fliers!  At first glance, I was confused to see this hand written envelope, thinking; it’s not my birthday yet, I haven’t accomplished a feat worth celebrating, there are no other recent milestones reached.  Why would someone be sending me a note?!  And therein lies the beauty… this love note was written and sent just because.

I savored every moment of this gift… from the happy orange envelope, to pulling out the crimson rice paper and unfolding it in anticipation, to absorbing each lovely word and sentiment.  While I read, my husband was peeking over my shoulder. Little did he know that this note was meant for him as well!  When I finished reading aloud, he audibly swallowed a lump in his throat and with glistening eyes expressed his gratitude for our kind friends.  I on the other hand, had no words that could express my feelings in that moment.  I felt a warmth spreading over my entire body, I was enveloped in a hugging embrace.  I felt the power of words.

We forget the “power” our words have, both spoken and written.  They have the influence to lift another up, to tear another down, to give bits of hope, to rip all hope away, to encourage, to shame, to support, to abandon… All it takes is just one word.  It is wise to choose our words carefully, to use them to create a word filled with love, light, peace and hope. 

One simple, yet oh so powerful way of doing this? . . . through The Art of The LOVE LETTER!

It’s funny, even before I received this love note, I was already drafting this blog entry, unbeknownst to her.  Several months ago I had read about a national movement called “More Love Letters;” a calling to citizens to spread their love in a disconnected world.  Their mission completely resonates with my own mission, to spread hope, one person at a time.  It’s such a powerfully effective way to spread love on to those we don’t even know and may never meet.  And, it’s done anonymously, which I think is beautiful.  Check out their website to learn more: http://www.moreloveletters.com/ and to read about dozens of stunning examples of the love letter movement in action.

SO NOW IT’S TIME TO GET STARTED ON SPREADING YOUR LOVE LIGHT!

Sit down and write a love note to someone who is significant in your life.  It doesn’t matter the quality of your penmanship, handwritten is always the most meaningful!  We live in the age of digital communication, abbreviated thoughts, and deleted sentences.  Write something that can be literally held close to the heart, that can be displayed, that can be kept and re-read for years to come.  Create a piece of history, build a heritage of friendship.

When writing a love note, whether to someone you know or to someone anonymous, your sentimentsDSC04034 don’t have to be lengthy, they should just be thoughtfulIf you know them, tell them you love them and mention one or two things that are unique to that person, ways they light up the world around them.  If that person is in a place of hurting or pain, send them a few words of encouragement, let them know you believe in them, and that they are not alone.  Tell them how much they mean to you.

If you are writing an anonymous note, you can use the guidelines from “The World Needs More Love Letters.”  Or, even better, you can write whatever is in your heart.  Breath and say a small prayer of gratitude first, and then let the Universe speak through you.  I believe that you will intuitively write exactly what the recipient needs to hear.  Don’t include personal information; just let them know that the world loves them, and that they have a unique role to play.  Encourage them to let their inner light shine and to spread happiness and hope to others.  You may want to remind them that if they are struggling today, it will pass… to hold on and never give up!

DSC04033The most important element of the anonymous love letter?  The envelope!  Make sure it is bright and eye catching.  Write in large letters, both to catch someone’s eye but also, so that it (hopefully) won’t get thrown away. See my personal example and others on the love letter site to give you inspiration.  Are you artistic?  Include a drawing.  A photographer? Add a picture.  The ideas are endless!  Embrace this activity and most importantly, pour a ton of love into whatever you create, whatever you write!  That passion will shine through.

Where to leave the letter?  Anywhere there is traffic… tucked in a store shelf, in a cushion at the airport, in a magazine at the doctor’s office or hospital (two places people are often in need of a little extra love), next to the creamers in the coffee shop.  The options are endless.  As for me, I am going to keep my love letter in my bag and trust that the right place will present itself, and when it does, I’ll be “armed with love!”

Don’t get caught up in drafting the “perfect note.”  Perfectionism only paralyzes us from ever achieving action!  The letter that carries the most impact may just be a hastily written note of love and encouragement scribbled on a piece of scrap paper and left in a waiting room.  It makes my heart swell to imagine finding a note while anxiously waiting to see a doctor.  I picture myself flipping through a magazine, when a piece of paper flutters to the ground. I pick it up and all it says is, “Smile 🙂 You are loved today!  Whatever you are going through, you are not alone!”  How simply eloquent is that?

When I read my own love note from Adele, I was deeply touched that my friend felt inspired by my blog.  It’s difficult for me to accurately express how much this means to me.  I hadn’t explicitly put out a calling for my readers to send love notes, I don’t even remember if I mentioned it or not.  But, that’s the beauty of this forum, this exchange of thoughts and ideas, the reader takes from each post what they need to hear in that day.  And this friend read between the lines and unearthed exactly what I needed… to be loved.

I have already re-read my love note almost a dozen times since receiving it yesterday.  Talk about inspiration for me to pass on the same to others…

WHO ARE YOU GOING TO PASS YOUR  LOVE ON TO TODAY?

Let Your SOUL BEACON shine!!!

(Don’t forget to leave a comment about your love letter experience… inspire others with your sharing!)

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