Clouds In My Coffee

IMG_0098It’s already December, the final month of 2013.  It’s been a wild ride:  completing the Martha Beck Life Coach Training Program and setting up my practice; creating the Wise Owl Book Club; traveling to San Diego, Pismo Beach, Lake Tahoe and Napa…  Well, let’s just say that I am very grateful for the shorter, cooler days (even here in the desert) and to turn my focus toward my home and loved ones.

Of course, there’s still plenty to keep me busy–holiday events and shopping, work to do, knitting projects to finish–but during this time of year I find myself a bit more comfortable taking a moment to sit by the fire, drink a cup of tea and enjoy the time I have with my family.  And that means that I can also do something incredibly valuable:  dream.

When I take the time to dream, I get in touch with myself.  I listen to the small still voice inside that reminds me what’s most important, and what I should be focusing on now, in this moment.  I relax.  I play.  I listen.  And I remember to pay attention to my nightly dreams as well, which often hold messages from my soul about the way to go.

I’ll be writing more soon about methods of dream analysis that I find particularly useful and enlightening but, in the meantime, let me just recommend this:  take the time to dream while you’re awake.  Look for those clouds in your coffee, and open your imagination to what you find there.  Not only is dreaming a good way to get in touch with a peaceful, joyful part of yourself, but it just may suggest possibilities you haven’t yet dared to imagine.

The Journey Home

It’s all true.

Everything the lovers and dreamers said about following your heart, your north star, your bliss–it’s all true.  Every bit of it.  I’ve read all the books encouraging it; I’ve hoped and dreamed thIMG_1608at it was true; I was willing to believe it.  I just hadn’t seen it.  Until now.  There really is magic and mystery in following the path your soul longs to take.  Friends do appear to help you; the impossible becomes possible simply to speed your journey.  I have no idea how it works, but I am so very grateful that it does.

And yet, that is not quite true.  We all know that there is something magical and transformative about love.  And so why should it be any different when we fall in love with our path?  When you fall in love with where you are and what you are doing, all manner of things become possible.  You are transformed, and your life along with you.  So of course the lovers and dreamers were right all along.  Fall in love with your life, and miracles will surround you.

It took me a long time to find my path and fall in love with it.  If you are still seeking yours, I would say only this:  don’t give up.  Your journey is leading you to just where you need to go.  You may not realize it–I certainly didn’t, not for a very long time–but you are already on the road you are meant to take.  Every part of your life is part of the adventure.  Every part of it is, somehow, bringing you home.

The place where you are right now

God circled on a map for you.

Hafiz

Comfort, Joy & Mindless Eating

IMG_1607Thanksgiving arrived early this year, and with it began the season of gift-giving and of holiday celebrations.  It is a time of joy, a time to gather together with loved ones, a time to share the warmth of love and laughter.

Yet for many, this is a time of excess:  too much food, too much wine, too many parties, too many obligations, too much money spent.  And so I wonder, is there some way that we can bring more peace and balance into what should be a time of light and love?

Let’s begin with those holiday parties.  Wonderful food, holiday cocktails, a time to celebrate… yet many of us either fret away the evening trying not to ruin our diets, or, instead, indulge and indulge and indulge… and regret it the next day.

Instead of this all-or-nothing approach, try to find a place of balance between enjoying the moment, and feeling good the next day.  According to Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink (one of my all-time favorite books about how and why we eat), we eat what we do because of hidden influencers:  the size of our plates, the atmosphere, the music playing, the company.  We cannot control (or completely ignore) all of these things, so the best thing to do is to fight fire with fire:  use your own tricks and tips to enjoy the holidays while protecting yourself from over-indulging.  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Make it a game.  Ask yourself–what can I do to slow down how fast I eat?  Perhaps serve yourself less than normal, and leave the leftovers in the other room so they aren’t as tempting.  Can I delay that snack I want?  Perhaps have a glass of water and see if you still feel hungry in 15 minutes.  Do I need the hamburger with cheese, bacon and avocado, or would I be just as happy with only the avocado?  Find clever ways to cut out a few calories here and there, without ever depriving yourself completely.

2.  Be patient.  Losing (or gaining) weight takes much less drastic measures than most of us believe.  The difference of a few bites can make a big difference when done daily.  Read Mindless Eating or The Four-Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace by Martha Beck to learn more.

3.  Increase your joy.  Not only from food, but from everywhere.  That holiday party shouldn’t be about only the crab cakes and wine; it should be about the company.  Enjoy your friends, enjoy the music and the conversation, and don’t become too fixed on what you are or aren’t eating.

4.  Stay balanced.  When you get too hungry or too tired, of course your choices won’t be as good.  So take care of yourself.  Get enough rest, drink plenty of water and eat well.

5.  Create your own tricks.  Find what works and pass on what doesn’t.  I like to share meals or order appetizers; I use small plates, bowls and glasses (another Mindless Eating trick).  I try to eat slowly and take breaks so that I know when I’m full.  Doing these things allows me to enjoy everything I want, and still feel good later (and fit into my favorite jeans).

Wishing you joy, balance and all the pleasures of the season,

Jennifer

A Rebel’s Heart

Like many peace-lovers born under the sign of Libra, I’ve never considered myself a rebel.  I dislike conflict and treasure harmony.  This does not mean that I will stand aside or ignore cruelty, but I have never been one to rebel for rebellion’s sake.  Or so I thought.

The longer I write these pages, and the deeper I travel into the landscapes of peace, the more I realize that the paths of love and forgiveness are the most rebellious paths.  The world may give lip-service to these virtues, but most of our families and friends expect something different from us.  We are expected to choose sides–this politician, that sports team, this style of music, that genre of movies.  We trumpet our preferences and put down those who think differently, calling them ignorant, misinformed, lacking in taste or education.  We pick sides, and then battle to support them.

I am not suggesting that we should not campaign or vote for the politicians we believe in; cheer for our favorite teams; enjoy our favorite music and movies.  But what we can do–what it takes a rebel to do–is love the other side.  See the light that exists in them as well as in us.  Forgive where forgiveness is needed.  Educate with love rather than the rhetoric of hate.  Perpetuate kindness and compassion rather than adding more fuel to the fires of the world.

I am a rebel.  I choose love, work for beauty and treasure kindness.  I continue to believe that good exists throughout the world and that seeking it out will help it to grow.  I practice the arts of gentleness and patience with as much fierce devotion as the warriors of old.  It is a battle fought day by day, hour by hour.  It does not bring victory over others, but something far greater–all the joys of heaven and earth, for you and for those you share it with.

Wishing you your own rebellion,

Jennifer

P.S.  In just a few more days my book will be available for sale here and on Amazon!

Let The River Carry You

It was a warm and moonlit night.  As the air cooled and the light faded from the mountaintops, my boyfriend and I decided to go for a swim.  He put me on his back and began to swim laps through the warm water.  I listened to the sounds of the evening, and allowed my body to melt.

Faster he swam, pulling me behind him, creating currents in the formerly still water.  The currents began to pull at my legs; I could feel my limp muscles creating resistance as he turned one way or another.  And so I began to shift slightly with his movements.  A small movement here, another one there, and again I began to slide easily, effortlessly, through the water.  And I realized that non-effort does not mean no effort.

Sages counsel us to be where we are, to accept the moment we are in, to practice non-resistance.  But sometimes doing nothing–allowing your body to go limp while the rivers of life carry you–creates its own unique resistance.  To truly accept the moment, we must play our part.  That part is always gentle, subtle and completely aligned with what is happening around us.  It is a kind of non-doing, because it arises so easily and spontaneously.  It is effortless action.

Awareness of the moment means to accept it as it is and the part that you play in it.  Sometimes the appropriate action is to float; sometimes it is to swim.  Find the effortless action, and then allow the river to carry you.

Wishing you effortlessness,

Jennifer

Awakening

These pages are, as Emily Dickinson once said, my “letters to the world.”  But although Emily felt that her letters were to a world that “never wrote to me,” I feel instead that the world is constantly writing to me, with every flower that blooms, every breeze that touches my face, every moonrise and sunset.  With so many letters written across each moment, I want only to write back.  To answer in some way the messages of Love that surround me.

Do I always see the world this way?  Of course not.  My true self, or buddha-nature (“buddha” means “awakened one”), is often sleeping and forgetful.  I am often caught up in fear or desire, asleep to the beauty and abundance that surround me.  But each day, I try to remember.  Each day, I strive to wake up, even if only for a moment.

There is an old saying about enlightenment.  Reaching enlightenment is like throwing a ball into the air, over and over again.  It goes up; it comes down.  But one day, when you toss the ball into the air, it stays there.  The secret is only this:  keep tossing.  Each moment you wake up is a moment transformed.

Wishing you wakefulness,

Jennifer

The Three Treasures

I have just three things to teach:  

simplicity, patience, compassion.

These three are your greatest treasures.

Lao Tzu

Tao Te Ching
(translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Simplicity.  Patience.  Compassion.  These are the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and others.  These are the keys to finding peace on a windy day.  Yet in the whirlwind of our lives, we often neglect our treasures and then wonder why peace feels so elusive.

We practice so many things throughout our days.  We practice working hard; we practice mastering new skills; we practice the roles of friend, mother, worker, lover.  How often do we practice the ways of peace?

Peacefulness is a skill.  One who does not practice patience cannot expect to find it during difficult times.  One who does not practice compassion cannot expect to feel unconditionally loved.  One who does not practice simplicity cannot easily enjoy the pleasures found in quiet times and places.

We protect the things we value.  We nurture the qualities we choose to focus on.  If you want to create peace in your life and in the world, then give your attention to the practice of peace.  Nurture the parts of yourself that are best and brightest.  Then when you face challenges you will learn from them and grow stronger rather than weaker.

We live in a world of complications, but we can find in ourselves a place of refuge.  Be still.  Be silent.  Listen to the voices of the moment, and the quiet voice within your heart.  Visit the spaces that fill you with peace, savor their sights and sounds.  Listen to the music that soothes you.  Open to the joys that bring you home to yourself.  Then carry that feeling into the world so it may bless others.

Wishing you simplicity, patience and compassion,

Jennifer

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