Saturday, January 29, 2011

Don't worry, be happy (apparently easier sung than done)

I love greeting cards. I can spend hours looking for and finding the perfect card for the occasion or the person.  If I'm not going to write and design the card myself,  I think the least I can do is find one that says what I wish I could have come up with on my own.  I was at Papyrus the other day when I saw this card, had to buy it, not to send to anyone but to have for myself, to look at daily as a reminder to be positive and quit complaining about every small hiccup in my life.

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy".  "Guillaume Apollinairo"
Colorful Quote

That sort of stops you in your tracks doesn't it?  It did me.  Of course, like most things, this good thought lasts until I run into the first bad driver of the day, my $3.25 morning latte that tastes bitter, or one of many other "minor" inconveniences that might occur.  But do they really have to ruin the day, or even mere moments of the day at all?  I guess the trick to it all is to be as nonreactive to these little irritants as possible, smile and just breathe your way through it.  Here is where having a Staples Easy Button would come in very handy.

Staples Easy Button
But happiness is elusive, it seems as if it is just around the corner.  What is it exactly that we are wanting or waiting for to feel complete, to feel happy?  A feeling of euphoria that never goes away?  A permanent smile that shows off our pearly whites, eyes that never cry, sadness, disappointment or hurt that never seeps it way through?  Most of us think we are one or two things away from being happy.  As soon as we get new carpeting, or the wood floors are refinished, a new car, a boyfriend, lose ten pounds, or . . .  We spend so much of our time waiting.  I'll be happy as soon as . . .   And we occasionally get to fill in some of the  . . .'s , only to add more to the "as soon as" list, and then we're off and running, getting that much closer to being happy.  Unfortunately that list is a never ending list that gets added to at a far greater rate than the existing items get crossed off.  

So maybe something really big?  Something legitimate, these are things we should truly feel unhappy about.  Loss.  Loss of life, loss of love, loss of friendship, loss of health, loss of income. But loss of a brilliant shine on the black oak wood floor?  I think not.  

As Jackson Browne said when referring to love, we "Wait around for the one who fits just like a glove."  Well that is all fine and dandy, unless the glove shrinks, or gets a tear, or we lose it somewhere on a cold and windy street, or sadly, never find the glove that fits in the first place.   And then we are back to our "unhappy" place.  Dreamily watching the Calvin Klein fragrance ads, the sexy young models entwined, knowing that a love like that is out there somewhere, we just have to find it.  Add it to the list.

One of my favorite pieces of art, a sculpture by my friend and artist James Lloyd is called "Narcissus Meditation" -  It is this extremely beautiful, sleek, smooth sculpture with it's only "imperfection" being a small pimple size bump (purposely placed of course) in which the sculpture is entirely focused on.  The idea being that with all of this beauty, the only thing she sees is this minor flaw, neglecting and never realizing her true beauty and potential since she is too preoccupied with what she considers this overpowering distraction.  

James Lloyd, Narcissus Cosmic Meditation

Everyday we hear of some situation where we thank our lucky stars that it didn't happen to us.  We hear of some tragedy that makes you appreciate, just momentarily, your life and good fortune.  And for the moment, you get it.  You really feel it and swear that you will live life fully and with absolute certainty that you won't waste another minute.  But it seems those moments are fleeting.  Listening to Michael Douglas the other night on TV being interviewed about his cancer, Matt Lauer asked him what was the biggest thing he took away from this experience.  His answer was what many others have said, how he really appreciates his friends and family, the old cliche of "stopping to smell the roses."  But then he also said,  "It's put a timeline on my life."  And as much as we are all aware of that, why does it take something like almost losing our life to truly cherish the one we have?

I had an inquiry this past week from a woman wanting a Feng Shui consultation.  She was at the end of her rope, telling me of the "bad luck" that her family had endured over the past 8-10 years.  Some of the unfortunate events she had experienced were her own bout with cancer, her husband having a slip and fall accident, then a heart attack, making him unable to work, her daughter being raped as a teen and then attempting suicide, and her teenage son developing both a liver disease and, if that were not enough, a brain tumor.  They were all still alive, for which she was appreciative.  She even managed to laugh at her "good luck", saying "Well, at least no one died."  And again, just for a moment, as I sat listening to her, I thought "shame on me" - for even spending another minute being sad, or feeling sorry for myself for things I have lost, or things I think I need to have, to be "happy" -

Some lessons we don't seem to learn from the experience of others, we need to experience it for ourselves.  Well, this is one major lesson I wish I could learn from watching others and absorbing their information and experience and taking it on as my own.  No need to try it myself, this time I'm taking you at your word.

What is this blog about?  Focus.  It is about taking what and who we have in our life right now, and focus with our full attention the positives that all of those things bring forth. We need to quit dwelling on the imperfections, the small annoyances, and focus on the true beauty of being alive, stop wasting our short time here "waiting" for that little package of happiness to arrive at our doorstep.  It is about knowing when to be happy and when to be unhappy. Because we need to be both.  It is called being human.  The goal I believe is to strive for contentment.  To be at peace with ourselves, whether or not at that moment in time we are laughing or crying.  I am going to try and live by the quote on the card, quit trying so hard and just be happy.

**Pam, a question for you.  Is it wrong to wipe out an entire bag of baked lays in two days if it makes me happy? :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

After 60 years, Jack (the Metal Rabbit) is Back

February 3, 2011 will be the first day of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Metal Rabbit, leaving the 2010 year of the Tiger behind us.  One of the great things for us Westerners about having the Chinese New Year fall in late January or early February is that you have some recovery time from the Thanksgiving/Christmas hustle and bustle and now is another great time to throw a party.  So if you want to celebrate Chinese New Year, New Year's Eve  is February 2, 2011. 

You'll be happy to know that the year of the Rabbit is traditionally associated with home and family, artistic pursuits, diplomacy, and keeping the peace. Therefore, 2011 is very likely to be a relatively calmer one than the tumultuous Tiger year of 2010, both on the world scene, as well as on a personal level.  I don't know about you, but I feel a bit beat up (being a Monkey, the Tiger's arch enemy, 2011 was an exceptionally difficult year and I admit, the Tiger got the best of me in the end).  I could benefit greatly this year from some peace, some calm, some friends and family time, a bit of self-reflection and the never ending attempts at self-improvement!

But I am not taking any chances, I am going to abide by the Chinese superstition and traditions that go along with the new year.  So, just in case, I thought I'd share with you some tips to make sure you bring in the Chinese New Year on the right foot too.  Hopefully that will be the "lucky rabbits foot" we can carry with us all year long.

   Chinese New Year Tips:

Welcome in the year of the Metal Rabbit with traditions to create good fortune.  First of all, do a thorough house cleaning before Chinese New Year's Eve (February 2, 2011) to let go of the past.  An exceptionally clean home will be beneficial to attract positive energy of the New Year!   This is a great time to let go of clutter.  Out with the old, ready to welcome in new energy and new opportunities.  But do not clean or sweep on New Years Day,  as it is believed that you will sweep or wash all good fortune away.  For New Years Day, (February 3, 2011) bring fresh fragrant flowers into your home, especially in your living room.  This will welcome in vibrant new energy.  Flowers are a reminder of the sweetness of life.  Peony is great for business fortunes.  Orchids are wonderful for relationships.  Lilies are very fragrant which adds more positive chi.  You can use any type of flowers that you like, but it is best to go for higher quality for this special occasion. 

The first person one meets and the first words heard are significant as to what the fortunes would be for the entire year.  Make sure you greet everyone with a positive attitude and cheery disposition.  Try not to speak negatively about anyone or anything on this first day of the year.  (I know, difficult, but it's for one day, you can do it!) It is a good omen to see or hear songbirds or red-colored birds or swallows.  Pay attention to these little signs.  It is fortunate to wear red clothing as it sets the tone for a bright future.  Carry an attitude of what you wish for the coming year on this ancient day of celebration.  
On Chinese New Year Day abstain from eating red meat.  Don't eat any food from a chipped or cracked plate or bowl and do not drink from a chipped glass or cup.  Avoid fresh bean curd and tofu as it is white and considered unlucky.  Don't lend items on this day, or you may be lending all year long or it may not be returned.  Give children and single people crisp dollar bills inside red envelopes for good fortune. 

Eat for good fortune.  Eat fish and long noodles for long life.  Eat dates for prosperity.  Melon seeds for proliferation.  Oranges and tangerines are for wealth and good fortune.  Black moss seaweed is for wealth.  Dried bean curd is for happiness and wealth. Bamboo shoots are for general well being.   Of course, Chinese take out is usually what I do, simple and always a treat.

Do not use knives or scissors on New Year's Day for it may cut off fortune. Do not mention death or dying on this day. Avoid references to the past year as you have already turned into the New Year and you are moving forward.     
So, as we transition into 2011 with the gentle yet persistent energy of the Rabbit, I wish you all a healthy, prosperous, relaxing and very happy new year.







Thursday, January 6, 2011

Every time I watch the fruit turn rotten

When Deepak Chopra was asked last night on television, "what is the one thing you would recommend to people that could improve their health and overall well being", his response was, "meditate." He didn't say "quit smoking", "quit drinking" or "quit overeating", though as obvious as that advice would've been, I still expected something along those lines.  So it actually came as a surprise when the number one piece of advice, above all else that he gave was to meditate.  Even if only 5 minutes a day.  Now I believe that we all have five minutes, somewhere in our day.  I usually take at least 15 or so just to stare off at nothing first thing in the morning, death grip on my coffee cup, as if my life depended on it, and some mornings, it probably does.

But then this morning as I was scurrying around the living room getting ready for work with Good Morning America on in the background, I saw Ted Williams, the homeless man with the "golden voice", turned overnight celebrity, being interviewed.  I really didn't catch that much except to notice how cleaned up he looked from the photo they had plastered of him just the day before all over the Internet.  Shaking my cynical head, figuring if he didn't get the book deal, he would soon be the next "celebrity" chosen to be on Dancing with the Stars.  Yes, right there along with the star quality likes of Bristol Palin and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, yes, only in America, as they say.  But the positive thought also came to my mind, "amazing - I'm happy for him.  What a difference a day makes" as I heard him talking with his radio voice about his drug and alcohol addictions and then he said something that caught my attention, he made some mention of being told at one time to "meditate before medicate" -

That stopped me in my tracks. Especially since I've been suffering with a two day migraine and I believe a pinched nerve in my lower back.  Now, there it was, laid out for me.  Another sign, a reminder that I needed to get back in the hopefully forever BMW driver's seat of my life.  I meditated daily from the beginning of my Feng Shui training until a few years ago.  To hear about meditating twice within a 12 hour period, and especially from an unsuspecting source, was sign enough for me.  More like a loud shout from above in surround sound.  The benefits of meditation have been researched, studied and touted by many and just like everything else that is good for me, I jump on the bandwagon for a short while and then secretly jump off when I think no one is looking.  Hence, the treasure chest of vitamins in my cabinet, the bottle of Bragg's unfiltered apple cider vinegar that I vow to drink each morning, the walks I intend to take daily, the green botanical print yoga mat shoved in the far end of the closet, and the crisper full of brightly colored vegetables full of vitamins A, C and K, that always seem to collapse and wilt before I get a chance to eat them.  And just like one of the lyrics in a song by Dan Fogelberg, "every time I watch the fruit turn rotten, I tell myself I'll try a little harder next time."

But meditate?  That should be easy.  I don't have to get showered, don't have to get dressed, don't have to swallow a capsule the size of a gherkin pickle that has that horrible fish oil aftertaste, don't have to exert any muscles, I just get to sit there, totally silent, relaxing, breathing, getting empty.  And yet still, it is that evasive "good thing" that is just out of reach, that I just won't treat myself to often enough.  Like a nice massage, a facial, things that once were considered a luxury but now are mere maintenance at this stage of the game, I put these things off.  Like the simple beauty of fresh flowers, which I swore I would always have in my home, on a daily basis, now I seem to wait for a holiday, a special dinner party or if lucky, they show up as a gift from a caring friend.  Is this a form of rebellion?  Is there some sort of "good to be bad" thing going on here?  Is this a form of poor self-esteem, self punishment?  Yes, yes and yes.  It doesn't make sense to me and believe me, I have tried to make sense of it, because I don't think I have any of those issues.  Okay, I know what you are thinking, maybe some heavy physcotherapy is in order.

So, no making resolutions, no setting intentions, just a simple five minute meditation that I will do each day. Just like writing in my gratitude journal, (that I haven't written in since before Christmas) and how hard is that?  To write down a few things while comfortably in bed before sleep?  Why the resistance?  Anyway, below is the simple meditation from Deepak Chopra that is a very pure and calming meditation.  There are so many ways to meditate, from focusing on the breath to saying a certain mantra, but after doing this one I felt very peaceful and knew that I wanted to do it again and thought you might want to try it too.  I'll start with 5 minutes each morning,  maybe even 10-15 minutes, and who knows, I might  get it up to 20 minutes a day in no time.

From Deepak Chopra - 

1.  Put your feet firmly on the ground so that they do not cross. (sitting in a chair or on the sofa)
2.  Put your hands on your lap with your palms facing up.
3.  Close your eyes and pay attention to your heart.
4.  Experience gratitude by thinking of blessings and counting your blessings.  Be grateful for everything good in your life.  Let your ego move out of the way.
5.  Recall an experience of love like someone you love or someone who loves you.
6.  Keep your attention on your heart and ask yourself a few questions like the following: Who Am I? Do not try to figure out the answer, just let your heart answer and guide you.  What do I want?  What is my purpose?  What makes me happy?
7.  Observe all of the sensations in your body.  This step is all about simple awareness of your body.  Bring awareness into your breathe and breathe air in through your nostrils.  Observe as the air moves in and out.
8.  Keep your eyes closed and keep your attention on your heart.  Focus on sensing your heart beat as either a sound or a sensation.
9.  Move your awareness into your open hands and finger tips.  See if you can sense your heartbeat in your fingertips as a warm, tingling sensation or mild throbbing.
10.  Bring awareness back to your heart and relax you body.  Yawn, move, or stretch if you want.  Take half a minute and gently open your eyes.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Baggin on the "Bucks" again

I didn't want to do this.  Did not want to post this blog. Yes I know, my last few blogs have been all mushy and lovey, gratitude journals and "ahh positivity" as a dear friend put it.  But that's it, I'm over that.  At least for another blog or two. Back to the real world, the 5:00 rush hour (that now starts at 3:00), the curbs we scrape up a little too close to and that run of red lights we can't seem to avoid.

I actually wrote this a few days before Christmas, thought it a bit Scroogey, and besides, I've bagged on Starbucks many times before, thought it redundant, but just once more, for old times sake, let me kick this dog and then I can pretty much promise you I will let it rest.  Metaphor people, I really don't kick dogs.

Some people complain about their kids, their husbands, their boss, the weather.  But when I get frustrated there is no one I'd rather bag on than Starbucks.  I don't know if it is them that I get so angry and frustrated with or if it has something more to do with something about me (I'm guessing it might be me) and the fact that I can't make a commitment.  I said I would boycott them and I'm back.  And if the truth be known, I've secretly been back many times since my last rant.   This lack of self-control, this complete lack of discipline may be the real underlying issue here.

The other morning I stopped at Vallergas (our local grocery store) to pick up a few items before work.  I only had a matter of about 20 minutes, it wasn't a leisurely visit, like one would have at perhaps, Macy's Union Square on a Sunday for example.  Starbucks happens to be right across the parking lot from Vallergas - so trying to kill two birds with one stone, I merrily hopped and skipped across rain puddles, grocery bag in hand, happy to get in line behind 7 others for my "have to have" morning latte.  Seven people, not too bad. I'm enjoying scanning the room as I always do.  18 people are seated.  Hmm, who is here working, who is here meeting a friend, who is here again with their screaming mimi kids.  I will give them a break today - it is almost Christmas for goodness sake.  The kids are out of school - all naughty and nice of them.

In line I'm beginning to fidget, shifting my weight back and forth, and the line hasn't moved in 5 minutes.  5 minutes can seem like an eternity when you are standing still in a waiting line, unless of course that line happens to be at Disneyworld where you know the end result will be one of pure delight and amazement (think Pirates of the Caribbean).  But a latte?  It is something I could skip all together this morning, or instead, visit the little coffee place by the gallery where I work.  But then it becomes this big ordeal, this big math equation, "if I leave now and drive over to the next shop, what if a line is there, how long will that take, and will the coffee be as hot, as good?" So, rolling my eyes, I decide to bite the bullet and wait it out.  But now I am wearing a scowl where just minutes earlier I was smiling at all the other jittery coffee addicts in this chain gang of a line, listening to the muzak mix of milk steamers, crying babies and overplayed Christmas tunes.

I stare blankly ahead, mildly amused by the woman arguing with the Barista, something about the Via coffee packets she is purchasing.  Only mildly.  But after several minutes and with the line now winding out the front door, I am just getting down right pissed off. When I finally got to the counter and the little Barista asked me my name I wanted so badly to say, my name is "Starbucks Sucks" - but I was afraid he'd ask for my ID to prove it, and there I would be, an out and out liar for the entire Starbucks community to see.  And what if they blacklisted me?  That would only make me want their nonfat two pump mocha extra hot with whip that much more!

So, what really annoyed me beside the ten minute wait in line to place my order?  They gift wrap now!  There on the counter is a sign "We gift wrap".  Are you kidding me?  Yes, why don't you take up more of my precious time.  You can gift wrap the coffee mugs, the Via coffee to go packets, the french press, all while heating up the spinach and egg wrap and the ham and cheese English muffin in the microwave.  I impatiently tap my foot to the beat of, I can't believe it, but I think it is the Chipmunks rendition of  "Here comes Santa Claus" waiting to order my one simple latte!  Ugh, can't you just do coffee?  Do you have to have your hand in all of it?  Do we all really need to take over the world?  Fill every need one can imagine? Can't we just find a thing or two that we excel at and do exactly that, excel?

So Santa, if you are asking what I'd like for Christmas, here it is, let me delegate;  McDonald's go back to your burgers and fries and leave the caramel mocha lattes to Starbucks. Starbucks you can leave the breakfast sandwiches to the likes of McDonalds and Subway and the gift wrapping can remain in the competent hands of Macy's and other "gift" shops. (By the way, do you know that Starbucks has a merchandise outlet in Ontario, California?)

If things keep going like this, Starbucks you will remain on my "naughty" list for next year, and In-N-Out, with your double double, animal style, fries and real ice cream milkshakes, you, once again are on my "nice" list. making me feel all is calm, all is bright,  I love you and please don't ever change. xo

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

2011 is finally here.  After roasting all those chestnuts on the open fire, cleaning up after the turtle doves, drinking with the french hens, and all of those HD visions of sugarplums, now all papa and mama want is to settle down for a long winters nap!

In reality, for many of us it was the yulelog on OnDemand, overeating and way too many sugar cookies, Betty's chocolates, spiked eggnog and visions of ever growing debt on ye olde Visa and Mastercard!  

But the New Year always comes brightly adorned with hope and optimism.  This year we will get it all together, we will right all of the wrongs in our lives and go on to live happily ever after. With the New Year it’s time once again to reflect over the past year, re-examine where we are in our lives today, and where we want the future to take us.  It is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings.

With all of these thoughts and feelings of change that come with the beginning of a new year, I thought I would share with you something that I share with my Feng Shui students and clients.  It is how to work with intention. 

Most of us set our annual new year’s resolutions, which many times are just a repeat of last year’s resolutions.  Once again we vow to “lose weight, stop smoking, get more exercise” or other things along those lines.  The problem with making resolutions is that they usually focus on the negative, areas in our life where we feel we have shortcomings, or where we have failed in the past.  Focusing on the negative things in our life can only bring us more of the same.  Our thoughts become our reality.  When we focus, commit to, and are clear about the positive things we want to attract, that is when we are working with intentions.

According to Grandmaster Lin Yun’s BTB School of Feng Shui, it is believed that there are two parts of working with Feng Shui, the visible (mundane) and the invisible (transcendental), both of which are important to success in life.  Visible factors include house and lot shapes, furniture placement, doors and windows, just to name a few.  These things can be analyzed and altered with Feng Shui remedies and cures.  The invisible factors include things like predecessor chi (the energy of people who lived in the home before you), spiritual energies within the land, our intentions and other factors. Intention is thought to be the most important factor, the starting point for your Feng Shui efforts. Intention is the strong desire and visualization of what you want to create in your life.  Everything you do in life involves an intention and is followed by an action.  

Steven Post, Barry Gordon, Edgar Sung, Kim Klein, Prof. Lin Yun, Crystal Chu
There are three main elements that are needed when setting an intention.  The first is, know exactly what you want.  Secondly, you need to visualize the desired result before it actually happens, and thirdly, expect the result to happen. Intention is that magical combination of will, motivation and desire.

All of our feelings, beliefs and knowledge are based on our internal thoughts, both conscious and subconscious.  We are in control whether we know it or not.  We can be positive or negative, enthusiastic or dull, active or passive.  We’ve all been told about the power of positive thinking.  But we need to truly believe these positive thoughts to bring about the desired changes.  Here are a few things you can do to help develop the power of positive thinking/believing:

  • Positive self-talk.  Only use positive words in your inner dialogue.  Use words such as, I can, I am able, it is possible, etc.  Repeat these things to yourself over and over, through journal writing, leaving notes to yourself to read each day and positive inner dialogue. Once you hear something enough times you will finally begin to believe it.
  • When setting your intention, visualize clearly in your mind its successful outcome.  Also be very clear on what you are bringing into your life.  For example, if you are single and want a partner, be specific in what type of partner, what qualities you are seeking and  what you want from that relationship.  If you visualize with concentration and with the full belief that you can attain it, you will be amazed at the outcome. 
  • Surround yourself with positive people who fully support your vision and goals.
  • Be patient and loving with yourself and know that you are worth having the best that life has to offer.  All that you desire can be yours if your heart is pure, your intentions clear, and your goals are in your best interest.
So, Happy New Year to all of you. Make this a year of positive changes.  Set an intention and put your heart, soul and mind into it and see what can happen.  And above all, be kind and patient with yourself and others.