Tag Archive | prayer

These Are My Graces…

beautiful-cloud-heart

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}

The God I Have Vs. The God I Want

courage anf fear

I was recently challenged to write about “the god you do believe in and the god you would like to believe in.”* I read this as the god I have versus the god I want. Upon reflection, I quickly realized they are now one and the same.

I did used to think of god as a punishing god… or more often, an absentee god. I couldn’t see the ways god was working in my life, so I denied any existence of a god, or a higher power. Truthfully, this “me of the past” probably would have skipped even reading a post with “god” in the title. I was that closed off to the existence of something greater than myself.

If there was a god, where was he/she when I was sick and dying?
When I was abused and attacked?
When addiction consumed the lives of my family and myself; the monster, Alcoholism, marching its deadly force straight to my beloved Dad’s doorstep?
Where was god when physical and mental pain and anguish played ping-pong with me and Dave?
Where, where, where?! I lamented.

Thankfully, I finally surrendered myself to the idea of a greater existence, to a god, in whatever form. For me, it started with daily prayer, most often filled with thoughts of gratitude.

My god today…
…travels in the minds and bodies and hearts of those around me; sending messages and offering Hope through their words and actions. My god wears skin.

My god is energy… energy that flows freely in and around me; energy that is never stagnant. And when I tap into this never-ending supply of energy, creative flow happens. Joy happens. Hope and inspiration happens. Love happens.

My god is always leaving presents in my path. I just have to stay open to receiving them, to recognizing them when they appear so that I can embrace them, fully.

My god is abundance. There is always enough spirit and energy to go around.

My god is a River of Grace that flows through each and every one of us.

My god is neither good nor evil. My god neither rewards nor punishes. My god needs no definition. My god is unique to each and every one of us. My god just is.

My god lives deep within the earth, growing roots to ground me… to bring me home. All the while connecting these roots to others and creating a collective conscious of love and community.

My god is my intuitive voice. The one that sees the path clearly and always know “the” choice for me–never waffling. When I turn a deaf ear to this voice or question its motives, I turn my back on god and my one true purpose in this life.

And, my god lives in the Now. It’s when my mind wanders off the present path and tries to predict the future or live in the wreckage of my past that I lose sight of god.
But when I keep my feet firmly planted in the soil of the now, not questioning the why, only focusing on the what, that I am always moving in a Good Orderly Direction.

Inspiration flows freely.
Opportunities open up like butterflies from their cocoons.
I never have to be alone or feel isolated again, because I feel god everywhere and in every one. And I too shine from within with the light of god.

My god reminds me that “I have arrived.”

* Exercise came from Julia Cameron’s, The Artsist’s Way (p.106)

Calling All Angels

AngelPositiveThinkingGuardian

Just over three weeks ago, I had emergency surgery to remove a non-functioning gallbladder (another “perk” of Polychondritis, my main autoimmune disease. Yea!). My husband couldn’t help but announce repeatedly that this was now my 15th surgery in 7 years’ time(!).

The surgery went fairly well as did my initial recovery. After re-learning to walk post a 5 day epidural (I swear, I now know what Bambi feels like on those wobbly legs!), I was happily released.

After my 10 day hospital stay, I was only home for 3 days, when I suddenly developed a hot, sharp and stabbing pain in my abdomen. A same-day CT scan showed a very large small bowel obstruction and I was promptly sent to the ED, to await transfer to the inpatient unit.

This time, my stay was Hell.

It began with the placement of a nasal-gastric (NG) tube. I have always said this is the worst procedure I’ve ever undergone (and that’s saying a lot, considering all I’ve been through!). But this time was even worse. The main disease process of Polychondritis is the destruction of cartilage in my body, most prominently in my chest, ears, and nose. I already knew that the cartilage damage in my right nostril was so pronounced, it was effectively “closed for business.” And I clearly stated to the attending surgeon that only a pediatric sized tube would fit in my left nostril. Yet, she insisted in trying larger sizes first.

The doctor quickly learned that I knew my nose better than her, and had to use the smallest tube possible. Now, I don’t know a single person that feels “okay” about having an NG tube placed, so surgeons are used to complaints regarding this procedure. What they didn’t take into account was my personal history. The pain was beyond excruciating. The only way I can think of describing it is; it felt like someone had first taken a hammer to my nose, shattering the bones, and then commenced to insert (shove) a tube up my nostril, while asking me to drink water through a straw, drawing the tube down my throat and into my stomach.

This was the first time I felt “my light” go out. I felt like my Soul Beacon had been 1-blown-out-candle-michal-boubinsnuffed. I was drowning in pain and couldn’t tell the surface from the bottom.

My husband bore witness to this, and stated later that he saw the moment I let go. The moment my eyes went dull and blank. I would have done anything to make the pain stop. I was ready to trade my life for this relief.

Having these very deep visceral feelings scared the heck out of me. I started to question whether I had the strength to continue this battle being waged inside my body, with no foreseeable end. Slowly I began to fight again, to refuel my Soul Beacon from the exchange of light, love and energy with others. But I still felt dim; like my light could once again blow out with the slightest of breezes.

That breeze came a few days later when my body started to shut down. I had uncontrollable shakes, deep abdominal pain, unrelenting migraines, and spasms traveling from head to foot. I couldn’t focus on anything. There were none of my normal reprieves of drawing or writing, or reading, or even watching T.V. All I could do was lie there, writhing in agony.

I felt myself slipping away. It felt like I had one foot in this world and one in the realm beyond. One breathe from the universe, and I would blow away. Forever.

Without words, my family could tell. My husband and mother put up a barricade around me, keeping visitors away, while silently standing guard. They didn’t complain of hours spent entertaining themselves while I slipped in and out of consciousness.

And then one day, a dear friend of mine showed up unexpectedly for a visit. I whispered a request for Reiki. And while sending me healing energy, she also received messages in return:

angel of light 2She leaned close to me and told me that everything was going to turn out the way it was supposed to; that I could let go (and let God, so to speak). Then she passed on the most remarkable message: “As I have told you before, you are surrounded by angels, spirit guides and light beings that love and protect you. But this time, I felt something even deeper. There is one angel that has wrapped themselves around your entire body. They are protecting you and encasing you in love. They are only waiting for you to call on them for help and support. Use this angel. Ask for their guidance and protection.”

And with that, she left.

I was overwhelmed. If I let go, would that be letting go of this body, of this lifetime? Or would the act of letting go release the tension and stress I felt over having to “keep up the fight?” Could I truly trust in my angels and guides to take care of me, to lead me in whatever direction the Universe had planned for me?

I chose the latter, to trust in this intuitive message my friend passed on. It took me a bit to even find the strength to ask for help. But eventually I did. And that’s when the miracles started to happen.

The nurses discovered that my sugars had dropped so low, I was partially going into diabetic shock. And after several bags of sugar water being pumped into me, I started to recover. Another nurse ordered me an air bed that softy pillowed my inflamed joints. And the doctors finally reinstated my medication regimen that treats my autoimmune conditions (stopped out of fear of effecting the recovery rate post-surgery), most significantly providing infusions of steroids. My body started responding in kind.

But, even more remarkably: I embraced my angel back. I called on the energies that swirled around me for support and protection. And I began to feel like I was wrapped in a quilt of love. A quilt that hugs my body, wherever I go.

I don’t think it matters what your particular religious or non-religious beliefs are. Words like “angels,” “spirit guides,” and even “God,” don’t need to be defined. They can mean something entirely different for each person. For me, they all come down to energy. I don’t believe that when we die, all of ourselves just disappear. We are made up of many charged particles. So our physical bodies may fail us and be sent back to the Earth (to be recycled and revived), but our energy, or our “soul,” stays active. For some, they may find comfort in the idea of Heaven. For me, I truly don’t know. But I do know that I have felt the energy of loved ones passed surround me at many moments in my life. They have sustained me, they have pushed me, and they have caught me when I’ve stumbled. But, most of all, they have saved me. They brought me back from the brink of death 7 years ago, when my colon first ruptured. And they brought me back this time, when my mind and body was too fatigued to continue the fight on its own.

And that’s the key: even when we feel alone, we are not. We don’t have to face life’s challenges all by ourselves. Each one of us has an army of angels, light beings, and spirit guides just waiting to be called upon.

All it takes is a little prayer or meditation. Picture yourself surrounded with light and love. Feel the energy of the universe travel from without to within and out again. We are not stagnant beings, each one of us has a River of Grace flowing with our life force within us. Some believe this river is fed by God, others Buddha or Allah, or a Higher Power. For me, it is not an entity I can name. I choose to call my source God. But my God is not an omnipotent being, it is a mass of swirling light and energy that flows around all of us. Most often, my God wears skin, as a messenger of hope.

Each day I pray to have my eyes, ears, heart and soul open to receiving the gifts and messages from God and the Universe. This way I don’t miss the miracles when they come my way.

Because of this practice, I was able to see God in the form of my friend’s words as she asked me to trust in and use my Guardian Angel.

And even a skeptic cannot argue with the outcome. Because here I am just one week later, at home and recovering, with the energy to share my story with you.

Will I be able to weather another wave of physical assault on my already ailing body? I don’t know. But, that’s the key; I don’t have to know. All I have to do is trust in the universe to provide for me, whatever comes my way. My goal is to spread this message of hope and faith to others, so that collectively, we have the energy to face life’s challenges.

What challenges are you facing today that you could call on your angels or guides to help you navigate? All it takes is closing your eyes, taking a couple of deep cleansing breaths, and then, just… asking.
What have you got to lose by trying?!

angel guardian 2

Going Just Beyond…

above and beyond

A friend shared an alternative approach to creating New Year’s Resolutions. For the last three years, she has chosen a word that defines what direction she wants to head in the upcoming year.  Instead of listing “specifics” she meditates and visualizes her hopes, wishes and dreams and then categorizes them under an umbrella term; used as her motivational mantra throughout the year. For this year she was vacillating between love and courage, thinking about using both. Then through conversations with others, she realized the recurring word that kept popping up was “connection.” And as she said, “I have found that the word I settle on, most often finds me, not the other way around.”

By focusing on this one small, yet enticingly expansive word, she will walk through the coming 365 days deepening her connections with herself and with others, while staying in tune with the connectivity we can all experience, when we dip into the well of our shared roots.

Just a few days after this conversation, I happened upon an article in our local paper, “My Life, My Words; Three Little Words Have an Impact.”*  In it, Kristine Bruneau writes, “Since 2012, I’ve chosen three words to inspire and guide me along the path of achieving my goals.  At the end of the year, I reflect on how well these words have helped shape my efforts.” Her three words for the coming year are “restore, integrate and teach.” For the year just past, they were “amplify, connect and share.”  They are a trio of interconnected words, which seem to act as stepping stones to growth.  The first, a verb, “takes action”; the second exemplifies how she will integrate the first tenet into her own life; and the third, how she will spread this to the world beyond herself.

Whether one word or several, both approaches are positive and action oriented.  When focused on the solution rather than the problem, you automatically walk in a positive, forward moving direction.

By setting a word, or words of intent, you are practicing the Law of Attraction. 

For the last couple days, I have opened up my mind to receiving a word that describes what I want to attract in the coming year.  I meditated and prayed, and allowed the first word that came into my mind to sit and stew for a while.  It was an unexpected word.  Some may even say an odd word choice.  But the more I let my mind tinker with this idea, the more I realized it encompassed all my hopes, goals and dreams.

My word for 2014? — “BEYOND

I want to reach just beyond my comfort zone into the unknown realm where growth occurs.  I want to re-discover my hidden talents; I want to experience life as it is, and then take it just one step further.  I want to reach beyond myself to help others and the world.

Thinking beyond is going to help me “feel my fear, and do it anyway.”  When I am about to embark on a new or different endeavor, and my fear (of failure, of the unknown, etc.) tries to stop me, I am going to pause, breathe and reach just beyond that fear into the landscape of trust. I am going to take my life just one step further.

I am going to remember this one-word phrase (hmm… oxymoron?!) whenever I am faced with a daily decision, choice or activity; I am going to pause and ask myself, “what would going just beyond look like?” 

The same goes for facing disappointment. Instead of focusing on “why life didn’t turn out the way I had imagined,” I am going to look for the hidden land of opportunity that lies just beyond the field of disappointment.

This word will help define the direction in which I want to head; but I am not concerned with defining what that will look like, what that will feel like, or how I will exactly get there.  That part I’m leaving up to God and the Universe.

And I can’t wait to see what happens!

Some questions you may want to ask yourself when choosing your own Word (or words) Of The Year:

  • In what area of my life do I want to grow?
  • What do I want to learn more about myself?
  • How do I want to more deeply connect with my community? Family? Friends?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • What have I wanted to try that I haven’t yet?
  • Where do I see myself in one year’s time? (in my personal relationships, in my financial stability, in my career, in my state of wellness?)

Then take a deep breath, close your eyes, relax your body, and exhale. What is the first word that comes to mind? Hold onto it, follow it, see where it takes you… and then come back here every once in a while to share your experiences with this annual exercise!

SOURCE: * Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, ROCarts, Section 2C

Indecisiveness is the Killer of Inspiration

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Indecisiveness is the killer of inspiration. At times, I can be so clear with my intent that I do not question the “why?”  And at others still, I will find myself waffling and waffling to the point where I am no longer clear about anything: what I like or want to do or how I am going to do it.  I have forgotten the skills I have nurtured.

When I am debating between two paths in front of me, I concentrate on my center and listen to the intuitive voice within. Some call this the “voice of God” while others feel more comfortable defining it as the “voice of their soul.”  Either way, it does not steer me wrong.  I have consciously practiced decisiveness over the last couple years and have found great success and satisfaction in this approach.

What does “this voice” sound like, you may be wondering?  For me, and many others I have contemplated this topic with, it is always the first answer I hear.  My soul, through the grace of God and the Universe, knows the right step to take.  It’s my over rationalizing, over-thinking, fearful mind that muddles the thought.  Upon practice, you will discover that there is always a clear voice that speaks from within.  But you have to be open to hearing it, and then, even more importantly, open to receiving it.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself falling back on old, unproductive habits.  I hear that voice and quickly think right over it… to the point where the original intention is lost and I am left a confused mess.  For example, I am contemplating taking another art course.  I just completed my first “formal” art course since freshman year in college (!) and want to capitalize on the confidence and skills it gave me, by continuing to move forward.  I was strongly encouraged to continue my pursuit and that I could take a number of intermediate/advanced classes that would provide me with the tools to refine my style.

Not knowing what the best next class would be, I brought in a sample portfolio of my works to get the advice of the instructor. But if I want to be completely honest with myself, I did not want the “responsibility” of choosing the next class; for fear that it would not be an accurate fit.  Where does this fear come from? A lot of it is financial.  These classes cost upwards of $265! I would be eligible for a scholarship; but only my first class would be a fully covered, after that, it would be partial scholarships.  And, as us chronically ill know all too well, time and energy are precious commodities! I don’t want to “waste” them on the wrong course.  Argh! The pressure!!

There are many typical fear based reactions that can keep us from trusting our one, true intuitive voice.  I think we can all identify with financial insecurity throwing a monkey wrench into our confident, decisive selves.  We can fear making the “wrong” choice and either not enjoying what we chose, or, even worse, “missing out” on the other, better option.  We can be stifled by fear of failure or of trying something new and outside of our comfort zones.  Often, we are afraid of change; even if the present situation is not ideal (and even harmful to our mind, bodies or spirit), it is the comfortable.  And we like comfortable, the known.  We can be paralyzed by thoughts of what others will think of our choice, or by comparing ourselves.   We can be afraid of failure.  We can be afraid of wasting time, money, energy. . .

And then I hear my friend’s voice saying… “YOU MUST FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY.”

Many of us have “trust issues,” and asking ourselves to trust our inner voice can feel like a huge gamble.  I know from experience that it does feel uncomfortable at first; because it is not the way we have typically done things in the past.  But whenever a decision is made based on faith rather than fear, you are always going in the direction intended. 

It does not mean that every choice you make from a place of faith and trust turns out like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!  There are times where I have listened to my intuitive voice and have faced challenges, pain, loss, and hurt because of the choice I made. But, in the end, I have always discovered there was a greater reason why I had to go through that experience.

So, I need to get quiet; because right now I am so twisted into knots over the simple choice of what class to take, that I have lost my intuitive, creative self.  And this waffling has poured over into all areas of my life, to the point where I feel stuck in a mire of indecisiveness… constantly questioning myself about what choice is the right one and then feeling fearful afterwards that I made the wrong choice.  I am in over-thinking mode.  I am a computer about to overheat and shut down.

So these are the steps I am going to take right now…

  1. Turn off all external stimuli
  2. Quiet my mind and my body through some deep, cleansing breaths
  3. Say a prayer of intention:  “Please let my mind, heart and soul be open to receiving the messages you have to give.  May I not question my one, true intent.  May I trust in the messages I receive and may I have the faith to face my fears and insecurities.  May I embrace all the opportunities that come my way.”
  4. Then I will repeat a series of cleansing breaths and clear my mind.
  5. I will pose the question to the answer I currently seek.
  6. And then I will just listen.
  7. I will let the first thought that enters my mind grow in shape and size.
  8. If other thoughts start to intrude, I will observe, describe and let them go (for example; “I am feeling fear about making the wrong choice and wasting my scholarship money.”)
  9. I will put my hand over my heart and remind myself that I am loved and cared for.intuition1

“I Have Arrived. I Am Home.”

white lotus by Tamara P.These three simple words have changed my life dramatically.  I first came across this straightforward mantra: “I have arrived” in a novel by Paulo Coelho.  In this compelling text, he discusses using it daily as a reminder that each of us, in each moment of our day, is exactly where we belong.  “Let go of the idea that the path will lead you to the goal. The truth is that with each step we take, we arrive. Repeat that to yourself every morning: ‘I’ve arrived.’” (The Witch of Portobello).  I followed this suggestion and now use it as a tool at the end of my morning prayers-reflection-meditation.  I pause, take a deep breath, open up my arms to the world, palms up and say, “I’ve Arrived!”  I say it with gusto.  I say it with conviction.

I didn’t begin this practice feeling overly confident about these three words.  Could they really make that much of a difference?  But, at the same time, I realized that it couldn’t harm anything by trying.  Now, after some 40 odd days of this daily practice, I can see that it has clearly made a difference.  It is a not so subtle reminder that my only “job” is to be fully present in each moment.  We’ve all heard this before, in one form or another.  But it’s an abstract concept, one that’s difficult to grasp in the rush of everyday living.  They are words that can easily be said, but are not often truly felt.  I have now crossed this barrier and in doing so, have developed a deep desire to share this technique with others.  I encourage you to try it, even if you feel silly or cynical.  What do you have to lose by giving it a go?

The concept behind the mantra “I’ve arrived” is a deceptively simple one.  By stating these words, you bring yourself, mind, body and spirit back to the present.  It’s almost impossible not to.  In the beginning, it may only be for that one moment after the words leave your lips.  But after repetition, those moments become minutes and then hours, until this thought fills your days.  I now find myself walking through life with an inner smile; I feel like I have my own little secret.   And when I find my mind drifting into the future (which it naturally will do) I remind myself to repeat the mantra, “I have arrived.”  I think there is a key in repetition; in not changing the words or the format, always repeating the same mantra until it becomes your own calling card.

As I was sharing my “revelation” with a friend, she said she was familiar with this practice, but from a different source: Thich Nhat Hanh.  I researched this and discovered he takes this process a little deeper and incorporates it into the daily activity of walking.  He speaks of walking meditation as a way to connect body and soul with the here and now. Through intentional, mindful walking, “We generate peace within our body, our consciousness. We embrace and heal the pain, the sorrow, the fear in us, and that is the ground for helping peace to be a reality in the world.”  He takes two natural processes; walking and breathing and adds a third element, the mindful mantra.  His suggestion is to measure your breaths to your gait, pacing as such; breathe in, take three steps; breathe out, take three steps.   As you get the rhythm going, add these two mantras:  on the inhale: “I… Have… Arrived.”  And on exhale:  “I… Am… Home.”  But what does this all mean you may be wondering.  By saying “I’ve arrived,” you are reminding yourself that you have arrived in the here and now, the only time where life is fully available to you, which is you one true home.  I like to think of it as bring my soul home.  And whenever I think of the word “home”, I think of solace, peace, comfort, and love.  This is the gift you are giving yourself.

This practice, in just over one month, has helped me with my fears and anxiety with my physical pain and mental burdens.  If I have already arrived, then I have nothing to worry about!  The future doesn’t matter, as long as with each step, or each breath I take on this earth, I arrive.  I am naturally going in the direction I am meant to be.  I am keeping my focus and attention ”where my feet are.”  And my feet are always right there, in my present space and time.   The Buddha said, “the past is already gone and the future is not yet here.”  Thich Nhat Hanh likes to remind us that we have an appointment to keep with our life and that appointment takes place in the present.  When we separate ourselves from the present, by either dwelling in the past or projecting into the future, we create a space (a chasm, really) between ourselves and the here and now.  This “space” fills up with fear, pain, anger, grieving, and despair.  But when we bring ourselves back, to live fully in the now, we fill up that space with peace.

“I have arrived.  I am home.”

As these words become practice, you may want to add more lines to the mantra, just one line at a time.   There is no hurry.  We’ve all spent many years far away from “home,” now that you’ve arrived and come back to your Soul Home, there is no rush.  Time is endless.

I have arrived. I am home.
In the here. In the now.
I am solid. I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Today, I Choose Peace Over Chaos

"God, grant me the serenity"

    “God, grant me the serenity”

A friend and I were having coffee yesterday and she asked me how I’ve been… the old, “So what have you been up to?”  And I didn’t know how to answer.  It’s not that I don’t have plenty (and I mean plenty!) of things that have happened in the last several weeks.  I could have told her tales of adventure and peace, fear and pain, unexpected sadness and unplanned joys.  But as soon as I started to dip into the memory well of my mind, my ladle came up empty.  Why?  All I could think of was that I haven’t had any time to process one event before the next one has come at break neck speed my way.

Chaos used to be my default mode.  I prided myself on “thriving on chaos.”  And I did.  But, more so, I think it was a way of reassuring myself; of saying I choose to live this way not that life is dragging me along for the ride.  I learned a lot of coping mechanisms by being able to react quickly to the ever changing landscape of my life.  I think a lot of us with chronic illness in our lives (personally or with close loved ones), learn these coping skills.   But when you live at such a heightened state of awareness all the time, it’s hard to ever come back to center.  You get stuck in a constant “fight or flight mode.” And that’s what happened to me.  I was so used to getting by, juggling multiple balls at once, that I was always on alert for the next shoe to drop.  I could never relax.  And, as a result, I stopped surviving and only focused on thriving.

Then, almost 3 ½ years ago, I came to a crossroads in my life.  I decided to reevaluate all aspects of my life, both those within my control and those I had no control over.  I couldn’t change my diagnosis or the course of my illness, but I could (and can) change the amount of stress and negative influences in my life.  A major negative was the use of substances to somehow make everything feel better.  I thought it made me feel more ”normal;” I thought it was a salve to the stress and pain.   And perhaps it helped some, but for the most part it only added to the stress, on my mind, body and spirit.  So I decided to live a sober life, but I also realized I needed a support system in doing so.  I joined some amazing 12 step women’s groups, which are still a foundation of my daily living.  And over the years, I’ve learned healthier coping mechanisms in those rooms and also a lot about myself, my needs, my limits, and my abilities.

That change in my life 3+ years ago, was a turning point for me:  One where I took the “road less chaotic!”  I now consciously make choices that will lower my exposure to chaos and increase my reserves of peace and stability.  But what to do when I have no control over the chaos coming my way?  How do I control a situation I am completely powerless over?  The simple answer is, I don’tThe only thing I have any “power” over is my reaction to the non-stop stimuli.  Do I allow it to infiltrate my every waking moment, to consume my thoughts and actions?  Do I respond to this influx of unplanned events by fortifying myself for whatever may being come next?… putting up walls of defense, preparing for the other shoe to drop?  No.  I’ve tried that, actually beaten those ideas to death, and the result is always the same.  No matter how many contingency plans I come up with, my future has never turned out the way I’ve divined it!  I used to think that if I could only be better prepared, I would be able to handle the chaos.  But, the best gift I ever gave myself was to sit back and just take each thing as it comes… one day… one hour… one moment at a time.

Instead of coming up with my multiple “chaos exit strategies,” I now just make sure I have a full tool box that is well-stocked for whenever I need it.  Once it’s stocked, I don’t have to worry about.  It’s there, just like a first aid kit; I don’t have to constantly take it out and re-check the contents.  I can trust that the right tool will be at my fingertips in the right moment.

So, what’s in my tool box?  The easiest one to maintain is “prayer.”  It’s always there; I just have to remember to use it.  It doesn’t have to be complex or a “top of the line tool,” sometimes simpler is better: “Please give me the strength to get through this next moment,” “Please help me to remember I am not alone,” “Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”  The last mantra (from The Serenity Prayer), I will say over and over and over again when I am experiencing unremitting pain (for me this is physical, for others it could be the pain of anxiety, loss, fear…) ~ it becomes a lullaby that soothes me.  I get lost in this chant and the next thing I know I’ve made it through the rough patch.  And the best thing about the prayer tool?  You can use it anytime and no one has to know when you are implementing it.  You can silently use this technique in a crowded, over stimulating, room.  How great is that?!

Other tools?  I have a solid circle of friends and supporters; those people I can call anytime and I don’t have to start from scratch with my entire story, they can tell just by the sound of my voice that I need someone to listen.  Going back to my life of chaos; I used to think that there was strength in “going at it alone.”  I used to (foolishly) pride myself on doing things independently, and I didn’t want to drag anyone down the rabbit hole with me.  Thankfully, I’ve now learned that strength lies in vulnerability, in the ability to ask for help.  And that others gain energy by helping me, that it is a gift that goes both ways.  The friendship tool is the Leatherman of tools… many tools in one.  Not only do my friends take on many roles and provide a multitude of “services,” they also come in a variety of forms; from an acquaintance that is ready to help in a moment of distress to various support groups (12 step, spiritual, illness related) and now all of you, too, my blogging community.  To feel connected is to know that each one of us is not alone… that each one of us does not have to go at this alone, if we so choose!

Another well applied tool is a mirror.  I use it to take a close look at myself, an inventory of my patterns of behavior.  Those born both from how I was raised and from behaviors developed in the midst of illness and pain.  Many of these coping mechanisms were a necessity at the time.  But then when life carried on, I forgot that I no longer needed them, that I could now choose to react differently to a situation.  But with awareness, comes growth.  So I have worked at defining my own individual character traits (some call them defaults) so that I can recognize them when I put them in to play.  And I can ask myself, “is this the right tool right now?  Is there a better/ healthier way I can deal with this situation?”

And that leads to my most often used tool: Acceptance.  I accept the all of me, both my strengths and my weakness.  I accept when I need help from others.  And most of all I accept when I am powerless over a person, place or thing.  I accept that no matter how hard I try to change the outcome, I can’t.  All I can do is be accepting of what the situation looks like today.  “It is not always going to be this way; I am not always going to feel this way.”  All I need to do is put on foot in front of the other and focus on what’s directly in front me at any given time.  I don’t have to worry about the future.  I can let that go!

Today I picked up the tools of meditation, prayer, journaling, and friendship.  And by using these resources, I now have peace with where I am right now.  My last couple weeks have been intensely unpredictable.  And I have not been able to process one event (good or bad) before the next situation is coming at me head on.  So that when my friend asks me what I have been up to, my mind is too overwhelmed to come up with a clear answer.  And that’s okay.  It makes sense that I am overwhelmed!  Instead of trying to change the facts, I need to look at what I can do in this moment to nurture myself; to recharge my body and spirit.  Because I am feeling depleted.

The biggest change between my current trajectory and that past one that would have me cannon-balling directly into the path of chaos? Today, I realize that I need to pause, relax and refuel before I am sputtering on empty.  Today, I don’t have to run on fumes.  Today, I choose peace over chaos. Today, I choose to reach into my tool box, pray and meditate, and ask for help from my friends.  Today, I don’t have to face life as an “Army of One.”