Días del Muerte

Life Goes On

After three years in Mexico, this was the first year my husband and participated in Días de Muertos. I wanted to create an altar and I wanted to do it correctly. My Spanish teacher sent me this link explaining the tradition. The first thing I learned was that it was not a single day but a series of days – hence días not día del muerte. Each day is designed to remember a different category of those we have lost. One day is for lost and helpless. Another day is for children who left too early. On each day a different item is added to the altar to symbolize a different type of departed. For instance, bread is added for those who left suddenly without their last meal and fruit is added for our ancestors – they are the fruit, we are the seeds. Días de Muertos is a terrific tradition for remembrance, gratitude, and surprisingly, joy.

Días del MuerteThousands of years old, Días de Muertos originated with ancient Central American cultures who thought it was disrespectful to mourn the dead. Death is part of life and this celebration is designed to keep the memory and spirit of those we love alive. For my husband and me, it was exactly that. Having an altar of those we love and have lost, kept them top of mind for us this past week. We thought about them and shared stories – happy and sad. For us, it did seem that they took the flower petal road to come visit us again for just a little bit. If you haven’t seen Coco, you can watch this short animation about the tradition.

Ironically (or as I say, Spectacularly Perfect), I had planned to write today’s post about a very different video I saw about Paul McCartney. I was surprised when that video fit perfectly into the concept of Días de Muertos. About five minutes into the video (4:55-7:35), Sir Paul shares a beautiful story about a visit he had from his departed mother through a dream.  He had been worrying about the band and their future. She told him, “It’s going to be ok. Just let it be.” As he wrote afterwards in the famous song, “In my hour of darkness, she is standing right in from of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” Through this dream he felt a connection to his mother and the reassurance he needed at the time. Have you ever had messages from the beyond? Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, have you received a message in a dream or just a pop of insight that helped you through a difficult patch? Many times in my life I have felt those I loved around me, supporting me, providing me with guidance, just letting me know I am not taking this journey alone.

The whole James Corden Late Late Show video of Sir Paul is worth the watch. One of the other things that is interesting is to see all the different lives Sir Paul has had, from his humble beginnings to the fame he has now. Life is every changing. No moment stays forever. No one is always with us. It is important to be in each and every moment, to be fully present for all that life offers us.

Take a bit today to remember those you have known and all the support they have given you before and after they were physically around you. Take a trip down memory lane and review the highs and the lows. Look at the miracle of the amazing journey of your life.

giving

Service and Surrender

At different times of my life, I seem to have themes on which I am focusing. Two current themes I keep sensing right now are Service and Surrender.

Service

I grew up the daughter of two consummate volunteers. Under their tutelage, we were always helping others in small or large ways. At times I resented the need to spend my time giving to others, but now I see service as the ultimate gift to me. When I find myself depressed and unhappy, I usually notice that I am solely focused on me and my worries. Don’t know about you, but when I think of my worries I get caught in a downward cycle. The more I think about them the lower I get and the more I worry. It is an ugly cycle.

giving
Photo by Sabrina May on Unsplash

When I instead turn to others, to their needs, to their worries, to their growth, I find release. Not only do I feel the joy that naturally comes from giving to others, but I am released from my personal torment. Giving to others is a form of gratitude. When we listen to others’ issues or can help them in some tangible fashion, it brings awareness of all the good in our lives. Visit a friend in the hospital, be grateful for your health. Give someone a ride, be grateful you have a car.  Give children a meal, be grateful for the food in your home.

Service is always a gift that is given freely, with no resentment and with no expectations for compensation. Service is the ultimate in acceptance and compassion. Giving freely and receiving so much in return.

Surrender

The song “Landslide” has been popping up in my playlist and seems to encapsulate the surrender part of my current theme. In the interpretation of the lyrics I like, Stevie Nicks is expressing looking back on her life, on the persona she created then “the landslide brought” her down. The life she created, the roles she played, even the accomplishments she had now seem meaningless or maybe not as meaningful. She is looking to make a change from what she created on the outside into what she is on a deeper level.

Surrender is the ultimate letting go. It is letting go of beliefs held. It is letting go of expectations. It is letting go of pride. It is letting go of judgment. Surrender is letting go of our ego. This term is not just the concept of ego as self-importance or self-worth. Ego is all that is “I.” Our ego is who we think we are or who we think we need to be. It is our thoughts, beliefs, memories, and physical self.

The pain one often feels in life is tied to the ego and it usually revolves around fear. We are afraid of not being good enough, afraid of not being accepted, afraid of being judged, afraid of loss. Our fears become our dictators. We act and react in life as a response to our fears. Our choices are made to keep us from the negative outcome of our fears. Love and peace come from letting go of our ego and the fears protecting that ego. Surrender is seeing that we are something other than the self. Surrender is releasing the personas we have built for ourselves. Surrender is embracing our connection to something larger than we as an individual are.

What are your current themes? What do surrender and service mean to you?

Puerta Vallarta peace

Chaos out of Peace

What I really want is peace. Peace in the world. Peace between people. Peace within myself. For me the biggest challenge to peace is truly believing it is possible.

Often when things are good, I mentally, verbally or physically make them bad. Deep down I find it hard to accept peace. On some level I don’t think peace is real or will last. As they say, I am always waiting for “the other shoe to drop.” I see happiness and peace as signals that things are going to hit the crapper at any moment. And if they don’t, I do something to sabotage and dissolve any of the peace I had experienced.

Puerta Vallarta peaceRecently we went on vacation in Puerto Vallarta. We had a great day on the beach then a lovely dinner with friends. On the way home, we took the wrong bus which took us 30 minutes and a mile or two out of our way. I could have laughed it off as an adventure, but instead I turned a wonderful day into a horrible one. I was tired and cranky. I stayed in the negativity instead of choosing the joy I truly wanted. Why do we do this sometimes?

I think the first reason we self-sabotage our own happiness, is that we don’t believe that peace, joy and happiness are a meant to be the normal way of life. From our own experience, through our parents or peers, or what we see in the news or social media, we are led to believe that life is difficult; life is a struggle. We do not accept that it is possible to enjoy peace, joy, and happiness as much as we want.

Another hurdle to overcome in order to have more peace and joy, is to believe that you deserve peace and joy. One of the reasons we think peace and joy will be taken from us is that we don’t fully believe that we deserve to be happy. For me, the thought is if others are in pain in the world then it is selfish of me to be happy. For others, the thought is that they are not good enough to deserve to be happy.

Starting today, instead of creating chaos and negativity, start bringing more peace into your life through Acceptance, Focus and Gratitude:

Acceptance

The first shift we need to make is believing that peace and happiness are possible. That these emotional states do exist if we choose them. We need to accept and truly believe that we deserve and can have peace and happiness. We need to believe that peace is possible in our lives. Embrace the concept, believe it is possible and know that no matter what, you deserve it.

Focus

Be aware of where your focus is. Are you focused on peace and joy, or the fear of losing them? Are you enjoying the good, or waiting for the bad to follow soon after? Be alert and vigilant. When you notice your focus moving to negativity and fear, take a breath. Shift your focus to what you want.  What we focus on is what we experience. Choose peace and joy.

Gratitude

Show gratitude, not fear of loss, when peace and joy come into your life. Say “thank you more please” when times are good. Have the expectation of more good coming to you. Start out with little things. If 90% of your life is in chaos, focus on and cultivate the 10% of good. Be grateful that you have even that little bit and joy, and soon you will see more coming your way.

Instead of creating chaos and negativity in our lives, let’s do what we can to create more peace. When we can all start creating peace for ourselves, we begin to create more peace in the world.

self love

Defining Self-Love

On Facebook, I host a group call Living Type Me for those who have read my book From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It. Every day I post quotes, articles, and other tidbits to help grow awareness, inspire, and assist the participants in their personal growth.

In April I shared the Shakti Gawain quote, “You can love other people only to the degree that you’ve come to love and accept yourself.” Group member and founder of ARTemis, Sam Hull, had this question in response, “Love or acceptance? Self-love is immeasurable, but self-acceptance is easily documented and weighed against self-neglect. Yes? So what is the difference that would place love or acceptance?” Great question Sam!

To me, self-acceptance is only one part of self-love. Self-love is unconditional and is part self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-appreciation, and self-care. To fully experience self-love, all of these components must be present.

self loveUnconditional

To truly experience self-love, it must be unconditional. It is easy to love ourselves after we win an award, lose 10 lbs. or have some other tangible accomplishment. True self-love does not need a reason to love. The love exists through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. It neither needs a reason to love nor is deterred when we are not at our best. Self-love is constant.

Self-Awareness

Self-love comes from self-awareness, knowing who we are completely. If we are loving the mask we wear, it is not true self-love. To truly love ourselves, we can not hide who we are. We need the strength and vulnerability to see who we truly are, not who we want to be or believe we are supposed to be. Self-awareness is being courageous enough to see our truth.

Self-Acceptance

With this awareness, we then need to accept ourselves wholeheartedly, warts and all. We can be aware of our truth, but if we do not accept it, if we judge ourselves because of it, or we perceive it as unworthy, that is not self-love. Self-love is knowing ourselves intimately, the perceived good and bad, and still loving ourselves deeply.

Self-Appreciation

One step further than unconditional acceptance, is appreciating ourselves just the way we are. This is not about praising our accomplishments, but about seeing our true selves and appreciating how our uniqueness is a gift to the world. No one can be and do what we can. We are unique, with unique contributions to offer. Embracing and appreciating our inherent gifts is a key component of self-love.

Self-Care

Where the other components of self-love revolve around thought and belief, self-care is about action. You can say you unconditionally love yourself but if you are not eating right and providing the body, mind and spirit what it needs, you are not acting on your self-love. Self-care is the manifestation of our awareness, acceptance, and appreciation.

To Sam’s question, self-acceptance is not the opposite of self-neglect. Self-neglect may be a symptom of the lack of self-acceptance, but it is not the other end of the spectrum. Many people do not accept themselves and therefore shower themselves with self-care, but if they can not accept themselves, self-care may just be a Band-Aid and a weak attempt to fill the self-love void.

What does self-love mean to you? Are you truly loving yourself unconditionally with total awareness, acceptance, and appreciation? Are you gifting yourself with the care you inherently deserve?

Until you can love yourself with this unconditional love, you may find it difficult to truly, deeply love another.

Homer Simpson 300 game

Celebrate Every Day

This is my 300th blog post (or at least I think it is). Woohoo!  I never set out to write this many, but it is great to celebrate the accomplishment nonetheless. I may not have had the journalists and a single pathetic balloon to celebrate like Home Simpson had for his perfect 300 bowling game, but I will take some time today to really acknowledge the achievement, the persistence, and the positive responses I have received. Through these 300 posts, at least 150,000 words, I have sent messages meant to inspire, enlighten, and support. Hopefully affecting those that need it when they need it.

Homer Simpson 300 game
You can find Homer’s 300 game at www.simpsonsworld.com › Clips

In our fast-paced world, we don’t take enough time to celebrate big – and little – accomplishments. In a constant rush to the next event or next task, we don’t take time to celebrate what we have achieved. And because of this, we often feel not good enough, not loved. We feel less than because we don’t take the time to recognize the amazing things we do throughout the day. Don’t make that face. Really, each and every day you do something amazing. You are reading these words. You helped the elderly woman at the grocery store. You propelled a moving vehicle. You took care of your family. You landed that big deal at work, or at least managed not to kill your co-workers. Take some time today to notice all that you do and how it improves the quality of life for you and for those around you.

Now take your awareness out to a larger level and recognize all the miracles and blessings you experience. For instance, you are reading a post I wrote in Mexico which you found online or in your electronic mail inbox and can read it thousands of miles away. Amazing! Have you experienced the miracle of flight? Do you find fresh delicious foods in your refrigerator or the local market every day? Do you have food, shelter, and clothing? Are you able to listen to your favorite musical artist anytime, anywhere? Are friends and family a click, call, or short drive away?

I find that depression sets in when we look at our lack instead of all we have. Spend some time today acknowledging your accomplishments and recognizing all the miracles and blessings in your life. No matter the bad that we all experience, there is always a host of good happening at the same time. When you become obsessed with the bad, stop and refocus. Start listing off things to be grateful for; recount your achievements. By going through this exercise, you not only shift your focus to abundance, but give yourself the love and courage and strength you need to move forward.

Do not just focus on yourself, but be sure to take the time to tell others how much they mean to you. Talk about their achievements. Let them know why and how much you love them. All too often we can take those most important to us for granted. For yourself and them, take the time to recognize the blessing they are in your life.

As you approach this week, find a way to celebrate and appreciate every day. Big or small, what do you accomplish? Some days getting out of bed when we dread going to work is the biggest accomplishment we can have. That’s ok. Celebrate it. Every night make a list of everything you accomplished. Every morning think of five things for which you are grateful. Celebrating accomplishments, acknowledging achievements, and being grateful are the keys to making every day special.

paint a picture

Painting the Perfect Picture

“Every day I start my day by going over things for which I’m grateful. Even though I’m in hospice and the end is near, I have an immense amount for which I’m deeply grateful.”

A friend of mine from high school wrote that powerful sentence on Facebook this week. The honesty with which he shared was beautiful. He was very grateful for the people in his life and for the little things we so often take for granted. I asked his permission to share his words. He responded with, “Go for it! At this point, my goal is to try and make an impact with any little things I can do.”

paint a pictureAt the end of Jim’s post, he wrote, “Now go make today the best day you’ve lived so far. You can do it, because the day hasn’t been completed yet. So go out there and paint the perfect picture and make it happen. That’s my plan.”  In honor of Jim, I invite you all to do just that. Make today the best day you can by using Jim’s focus, gratitude, and reflection.

Focus

What I found most powerful about my friend’s post was his choice in focus. At age 47 and with three young children, this is not the time for him to leave. He could have so much more of life to experience. But that is not where he focused. He focused on the fact that he met his wife and was able to spend the time he did with her. He focused on the time he had with those he loves, not the time he will not.

How much of our lives do we spend looking at what is lacking? What we have lost? What we will never have?  Make today the best it can be by switching your attitude from one of lack and sadness to one of love and appreciation.

Gratitude

I have spoken many times about the power of gratitude and making it into a daily practice. Jim’s gratitude at this time is simply amazing. Many of us find it hard to be grateful. We are looking at what we want, what we have lost, or we are just in the struggle to survive. Making gratitude a daily habit is a powerful tool to strengthen you and help you find joy in every day.

To help you create your perfect day, every day, start it off by thinking of five (5) things for which you are grateful before you get out of bed. Then every night, take some time to reflect on the wonderful things you experienced. For bonus points, start to recognize the good things in the moment. Actively focusing on gratitude at first may seem like a chore, but after a while you are reprogramming your mind and senses to see the good, and we receive more of what we choose to focus on.

Reflect on What Matters

Jim mentions that the best part of dying is having the “time to sit back and reflect on what really matters.” For Jim, this is his relationships, the long-standing ones and the ones which were rekindled due to his illness. Sometimes it takes a disaster to bring us together, but our focus on the gift and gratefulness for the re-connection is much more important than the reason why.

Take today to sit back and reflect on what is truly important to you. Now look at how you spend your week. Are you putting your time and energy toward what is truly important? What can you adjust in your life to help you focus on what is most important to you?

You have the power to paint the perfect day. Choose your focus. Concentrate on gratitude. Uncover what really matters to you and ensure your time and effort are being put in the right place for you.

Jim, I truly believe your transition will be peaceful for you and those around you due to your ability to make the most of this time. Thank you for blessing our lives.