Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Recalibrating October 12, 2009

My little boy is 10 weeks old. It’s hard for me to imagine it sometimes, even though I’ve been living and breathing his development for the past year. It feels like he has always been with me, yet he is brand new. Motherhood is a natural progression for me, yet a huge shift in the way I live my life. This adventure is a daily experience of the divine dichotomy.

It’s as if I’m having to relearn how to ride a bicycle. There is definitely a part of me that has never forgotten how, that flows effortlessly, that rises to any and all occasions, that is connected to Source and grounded in Gaia and in sync with my son and my center and the Universe. But there is also a large part of me that is tongue-tied, lost in the woods, feeling my way around in the dark.

Someone recently described parenthood as the hardest best thing they have ever done, and I have to agree. It is at its hardest when it is three o’clock in the morning and I can’t figure out what my baby needs and I feel completely alone and like the world’s biggest failure; and it is at its best when (sometimes five minutes later) the right thing clicks and his face lights up and he smiles up at me with such pure joy and my heart just sings.

Everyday I feel more surefooted, more self-confident, and those hardest moments become fewer and farther between. But those joyous moments, where it’s as if I have wings, are getting closer and closer together as he learns a little more each day about this human he has come here to be, and I learn more about myself in this new role as his mother, his guide, and his student. He is such a divine gift, such a divine teacher, showing me the ways of love and life and laughter and light in ways I never even dreamed possible.

I thought I was prepared for this journey, but I have to say, I am living the idea that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. And that’s okay. I am excited to see where this journey will lead. I may not always have time to write about it, but I am learning to be okay with that too, and I will share what I can when I can. Balance is coming, of that I am certain! Namaste.

Photo: “Apple Blossom,” originally uploaded by Jonathan Gill

 

Notes from Jenn’s World September 15, 2008

Filed under: notes — jennsheridan @ 9:19 pm
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I’m sorry for going a week without posting anything. There was definitely a lot going on–one of these days I’ll find that balance where I can be busy and active and still write blog posts. But in the meantime, let’s catch back up with a quick check-in about what’s going on in my world . . .

Reiki
I was very excited to receive my first degree Reiki attunement last weekend. I’ve been loving playing with the Divine in a new way through the Reiki healing energies. After learning how to give a table session, it occurred to me that I’ve been using a form of Reiki energy on myself and loved ones for a while now, I just didn’t know that’s what it was. But it was wonderful to learn how to channel the energy in new and more concrete ways, and I’m having fun practicing with both the standard forms and following my intuition.

Rock Band
Have you felt the pull of the game Rock Band? It’s a game sort of in the same vein as Guitar Hero, where you wield a guitar-shaped controller and play a Simon-like game of hitting the right button and strumming at the right time to make the right note play on the screen. Rock Band takes this genre one step farther by introducing the drums and a vocal track. I have a “band” with my husband and two friends of ours (I’m the singer), so Saturday we tackled the Endless Set List–58 songs in a row. It was an absolute blast–exhausting, but the kind of serious fun that could be bottled and sold for big bucks. I suspect it’s because it appeals to several aspects of you at once: my inner child loves it because it’s playing, my creative self loves it because it feels like creative expression even as you’re mimicking the original song, my body loves it because it can dance a little as I go. Fun for the whole family. Next up–a real band. It may take us a while to get it together, but we plan to start pulling out real instruments and seeing if we can’t make some music together. Or at the very least, continue to just have a really good time.

Chihuly exhibit
After spending the day in San Francisco yesterday exploring the Chihuly exhibit at the deYoung Museum and enjoying hanging out with a new friend I met while training for the Avon Walk, I feel absolutely full. Chihuly’s work is so full of joy and creative expression that it makes me feel like I am full of joy and creative expression. I totally want to learn how to do what I’m thinking of now as “fire art,” i.e. anything that uses fire in order to come into being, like blowing glass or making pottery or what have you. I’ve always loved to draw and paint, but I like the idea of having a 3-D, very tangible presence at the end of your creative expression. I’ll let you know if anything come of this urge.

Guinea pigs
So I am currently looking for “guinea pigs,” people I can practice energy work on (or with). I am opening myself up to do more and more with energy, both on the giving end, like with Reiki, and on the reading end, like with the way I do tarot readings. I’m learning a new way of doing energy readings related to the chakras and suspect that about the time I’m getting a handle on that, a new way of reading energy will be given to me. So please do let me know if you’d be willing to let me practice and experiment by giving you an energy reading. At this moment in time, I am looking for Bay Area guinea pigs only, but I will definitely let you know when I am ready to expand to long-distance!

So what’s new in your world? How have you been entertaining yourself? Are all of your different aspects feeling involved in your life? What kinds of new and exciting things have you been learning? I’d love to hear all about the growth and fun happening in your life right now. Namaste.

Photo: “Chihuly glass at the Bellagio,” originally uploaded by Joe Flood

 

Ghosts August 26, 2008

Filed under: journey — jennsheridan @ 11:03 pm
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I’ve been feeling ghosts all around me lately. Not the ghosts of those who have left this world–I know that in a way because they have moved on they are always with me–but the ghosts of old friends who used to be a large part of my life but due to geography or priorities or whatnot are no longer around. I see them in old pictures, hear them in classic songs, even have them cropping up in restless dreams. Suddenly, I’m missing people I haven’t thought of in months or seen in years and I feel sad.

My mom calls me a pack rat, and that applies to people as well as to things. I hate to let people go, even when it is obviously time, when we’ve grown apart or aren’t helping each other to grow any longer. It’s true, I have this dream of being able to gather everyone I’ve ever loved into one community so that they may continue to be a part of my life even if it’s only to run into each other at Town Hall meetings. There’s a piece of me that hungers for that small town feel where it’s a rare person that moves into the town and an even rarer one that leaves, where everybody knows everybody and their business, for good or for bad.

And yet, no one is aware more than I am that it is precisely because I’ve led the somewhat transient life I’ve led, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and moving into new areas with new people, that I’ve been able to grow and change as much as I have. The old friends, while still dear to me, could not have helped me to get to where I am today. They’ve had their own paths to explore, and I’ve needed fresh ideas, fresh motivations to nudge me along my own. There was a time and a place for us to be together, and the time may come where we’ll meet again. But in the meantime, I’m always being pushed out of my nest out in the wide world, where no one is really a stranger, they’re just friends I haven’t collected yet.

And so, I am writing this to honor my ghosts, to let them know I will never forget them. I will be here when the time is right for us to be in community again. In the meantime, best of luck on the journey. Namaste.

Photo: “Lighthouse in sepia,” originally uploaded by eva

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Living with uncertainty May 20, 2008

This past week has been such a good reminder for me that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. My overdeveloped intellectual, masculine, left-brain side of me has been absolutely writhing with impatience as I’ve essentially accomplished nothing that I set out to accomplish. I had all these plans for how I was going to get back on track, or even better, how I wasn’t going to get thrown off track in the first place by my trip to Georgia. My intellect was already expressing disappointment with me that I hadn’t been blogging regularly and so I downloaded the 10th A New Earth webinar to watch on the plane with the intention that I would even post my comments from Georgia without missing a beat. The universe must have been laughing at me, for when I turned on my laptop at 30,000 feet the file was gone. All attempts to watch the webinar since I’ve been home have been derailed by everything from computer failure to 100 degree heat.

I’ve had similar experiences with most of the rest of my too long to-do list to the point where I just have to relax, laugh, and say, Okay, what do you want from me? When I sit still and listen, I receive a gentle response that comes from the spiritual, feminine, right-brain side of me reminding me just to be, to let go, to take care of myself, to be myself, and all the rest of it will fall into place. I’m reminded that now is the time for me to relax into the mystery of life, to learn to live with uncertainty, to focus on BEING instead of doing. This is my gift both to myself and to the world, because through being I can become what I came here to be, which really is just simply ME.

My life has always been fairly well planned. I didn’t have a sense of what I’d be doing 5 or 10 or 30 years from now, but I had a feel for the rhythm of it, for the texture of it. My ambitions would take me far in my work and I would be very successful. I believed in the common wisdom of climbing the corporate ladder, using my current job to get a better job, working hard so that I would be well rewarded. This was my DOINGness, my masculine energy, my left-brain intellect at play. But I was never happy in my work, never happy with the rewards, never happy with the success. It all felt empty and without purpose. I knew there was more to life than what I came to think of as “making other people rich.” I knew that my true purpose lay in a different direction, but this energy was so strong in me that I couldn’t escape it.

I left that world a little over 7 months ago, and it feels like I’ve been in a retraining mode all these months. It’s almost like I’ve been in physical therapy, strengthening my right-brain so that it can at least find a balance with my left-brain. In some ways, I’ve had to swing the pendulum pretty far in the opposite direction to get the energy shaken up enough that a balance can occur, and I may need to live from a place of BEING for a while yet before a balance is possible. I’m learning how to live my life without a plan. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a vision–in fact if anything my vision is much clearer, much stronger than it ever was before. But I’m not caught up in “how” I’m going to get there. My focus is on allowing a little bit more of the mystery to unfold each day, enjoying the ride, having fun with the process, finding peace in the present moment.

Are you at peace with the mystery? Can you find peace in the uncertainty? No matter how much we plan, how little uncertainty we think there is in our lives, life really is what happens when we are making other plans. Just like the present moment is the only one that is, life is nothing but uncertainty. We do not know what the next minute or hour or day or month will bring. When we learn to be at peace with this truth, we can truly appreciate where we are in this moment, and we can make room for BEING in our lives and begin to pave the way for what is truly important in our lives, begin to live our lives as fully and richly as possible, begin to be Who We Really Are. Namaste.

Photo: “What does this picture mean to you?,” originally uploaded by chema.foces

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Inspiration: The Invitation April 22, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 3:19 pm
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I remember when Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s The Invitation was just an email being forwarded from friend to friend. It was relatively early in the friend-spamming-friend era, but you still got more of those emails than “real” emails and it was tough to pick and choose which ones were worth your time. I know that I usually just skimmed those emails and deleted them, barely absorbing the messages within. This email was different, however. I remember doing my usual skim and then stopping, returning to the first line to read each word and allow it to truly sink in. To this day, I still get “Spirit bumps” when I read her words. I feel my whole body tingle with aliveness and I yearn to “dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of [my] fingers and toes.” This is definitely a message about living life to its fullest, celebrating life in all its glory, and learning to fly.

The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon . . .
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Photo: “Big Range Austin Dance Festival,” originally uploaded by Andrew Baron

 

Breathing in, breathing out March 16, 2008

Filed under: connection — jennsheridan @ 6:01 pm
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We could say that meditation doesn’t have a reason or doesn’t have a purpose. In this respect it’s unlike almost all other things we do except perhaps making music and dancing. When we make music we don’t do it in order to reach a certain point, such as the end of the composition. If that were the purpose of music then obviously the fastest players would be the best. Also, when we are dancing we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor as in a journey. When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. And exactly the same thing is true in meditation. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment. ~Alan Watts

Hanging out with a good friend last week, she mentioned how much trouble she’s been having relaxing during acupuncture. Her mind just keeps working, her thoughts keep coming up one after another such that she has trouble relaxing. I suspect we can all relate to this, a mind that doesn’t slow down enough for us to relax. Of course, the more we try to make our thoughts dissipate, the more our thoughts crowd in. It’s akin to the pink elephant experiment–when you’re told not to think about a pink elephant, what’s the first thing that happens? A pink elephant pops into your head. When you try not to think, it’s like your mind is drowning in thoughts, they just keep flooding in and you can’t escape them.

Meditation is the best way I know of to train your mind. When you first begin to practice, your thoughts may merely laugh at your attempts to slow them and keep on flowing, keep attempting to distract you. The more your practice, the more you build your “meditation muscle,” the more you can use your meditation to slow down the flow. Actually, it isn’t likely that your thoughts are really going away–what’s more likely is that you’re sinking deeper into depths of your mind where stillness resides. Imagine the disturbance of the water on the surface of a pond, how there are ripples and waves, leaves floating on it, birds taking their baths, and animals quenching their thirst. There’s all this activity on the surface, however if you were able to get below the surface into the depths, you would find quiet, stillness, peace. That’s the place meditation brings you in your mind–but like anything else in life, it takes training. So here are a few tips and exercises that you might find useful as you are getting started with meditation.

* There’s no one right way to meditate. Now, I know people who will definitely disagree with me on this, but I come from the school of thought that says meditation is a personal experience. If you’re worried about not being able to do it right or even wondering what “right” really is, don’t. Relax, let go of all notions of “should,” and you’re already in a much better frame of mind to become a successful meditator. The goal is to practice being still in whatever ways work best for you. I’ve got a few suggestions that I’ve found useful to get you started, but I would recommend being open to any new ideas you have, books that you discover, people who you run into along the way. Even after you’ve found methods that work for you, exposure to new methods can help to round out your practice.

* Set your time in advance. Whether you choose to listen to music or simply to focus on your breath, you should know in advance how long you are going to sit. Especially when you are just learning meditation, you will want some sort of timer to help you know when your time is up. The mind plays tricks on you and in the beginning you will likely think you’ve been sitting there forever even if it’s only been a few minutes. Take the wondering associated with it out of the equation by setting a timer for yourself or by choosing a guided meditation or song selection that last for the amount of time you are planning to meditate for. Start with something that feels manageable, like five minutes, and work your way up. My goal is to sit for 30 minutes each day, but I have a minimum I’ve set for myself of 15 minutes. Find something that feels good to you, something you feel like you can commit to, and make the time to do it daily.

* Breathing. One technique that works for me and can be done anytime, anywhere is to focus on your breath. Even if you only have five minutes in the morning, before a meeting, or between classes, you can find a place to sit, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breathing. Take a few deep breaths to start and relax your shoulders, your body. As you breathe in through your nose, feel the air as it crosses your nostrils. As you breathe out through your mouth, feel the air as it crosses your lips. Having that one thing to focus on might be enough for you, or you might want to repeat “Breathing in, breathing out” or even just “In, out” in your mind. If you find your attention wanders, don’t worry about it or get frustrated with yourself, simply bring your attention back to your breath.

* Watch your thoughts. Another process that might work for you is to watch your thoughts. Take a step back into your awareness, become the observer, the one who is aware of the thinker. As thoughts come into your mind, don’t react to them or create further thoughts around them. Just watch them, notice them, and let them go. The idea here is to practice non-judgment, to practice not following where the thoughts lead. You will always have thoughts, but you don’t need to let them be in control.

* Focus on a mantra. While a mantra can be used at any point in the day to help bring your awareness back into the present moment, it can also be used to help focus your meditation. If you’re interested in exploring this idea further, you might find Eknath Easwaran’s book Meditation useful. While not exactly a mantra, his method of meditation is to drop the words from a prayer or spiritual poetry into your mind one at a time, almost like they are prayer beads. Elizabeth Gilbert also talks about the use of mantra in meditation in her book Eat, Pray, Love. The one that ended up working for her was Ham-sa, a Sanskrit word meaning “I Am That.” Or you might try something like one of the guided meditations in Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Blooming of a Lotus. The first one has always been my favorite:

1. Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.

2. Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment.
Breathing out, I know it is a wonderful moment.

The idea here is to give yourself words for your mind to play with, but not to go along with them. So the words fall through your mind and you let them fall, you do not follow where they go. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the mantra. If you’re using a longer one, you can either repeat the line you were just on or start from the beginning.

* Listen to music or chants. When I first learned to meditate, I was taught a relatively strict way. And I struggled, and struggled, and struggled. My body would itch, my thoughts would wander constantly, I would think that my timer somehow hadn’t been set properly and I’d sneak a peak at the clock to see if I’d really been sitting for as long as it felt like. My mind and ego won that battle more often than not, and I’d either get up before my time was up or I’d be antsy the whole time. It was a frustrating process, and as much as I knew the mind could play tricks on you, I couldn’t seem to get over the idea that I was just awful at meditating, that somehow something was wrong with me. At what point did this frustration shift into the love affair with meditation that I have now? When I added listening to meditation music to the breathing technique mentioned above. For me, listening to something solved the superficial issues I was having and let me dip into the deeper parts of the well. The music gave the top layers of my mind something to listen to, the fact that the track was timed meant that if it was still playing I was still meditating, and a sense of peace developed in me that had been missing for over a decade in my meditation practice. Does that mean my thoughts never wander? No. But it means I’m operating from a place of peace and tolerance that enables me to be gentle, to shift my focus back on to my breath, to use the discipline that meditation has taught me. You can find all sorts of great meditation music online, in music stores, and on iTunes. The gong music on Music for Deep Meditation: Tibetan Singing Bowl is a great choice, although it may be long for beginners. However, any instrumental or new age music can be used. If you don’t have any in your collection, Comcast’s digital radio has a great channel called Soundscapes, and Narada has several collections available that I would recommend as good introductions to the genre.

* Use guided meditations. Many people I have known find guided meditations a useful place to begin. In my early days of meditating I found that they gave my mind too much to do, which made the wanderings more pronounced, but now that my meditation practice has developed I’ve found a few that bring me to a new level of awareness, including my current favorite, Kelly Howell’s Awakening Kundalini. Check your local metaphysical bookstore–many of the authors writing today have come out with meditation CDs including Wayne Dyer, Joan Borysenko, and Louise Hay. Or, if you have a handheld recorder you can record your own voice taking you through a guided meditation as well.

* Meditate in a group. Group meditation is an excellent way to get started, or to continue your meditation practice. Find a class or meditation group near you–whether you begin attending regularly or just drop in occasionally, you will definite learn to feel the difference between meditating alone and in a group. Friday night I went to a talk at East-West, a local metaphysical bookstore, and at the end of one of the guided meditations the speaker commented on the power of the energy in the room. Having experienced meditators present had helped to elevate everyone there, enabling even beginning meditators to experience much deeper meditations than they would have had on their own. Plus, you will gain exposure to new meditation techniques that you may choose to incorporate into your personal meditations moving forward.

Whatever you choose to do to get started, remember to be gentle with yourself. The habit of a lifetime is not going to disappear in five minutes. However it will begin to slow down a little bit with each successive five minutes, ultimately reaching a place where you begin to see its results, to appreciate the shift that is taking place. Some day, whether it’s six months from now or six years from now or even 16 years from now, you will be able to look back on this beginning and smile. So go ahead, start today. Take five minutes right now to relax, let go, and use one of these techniques to begin your meditation journey. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will reap the benefits. Namaste.

Photo: “Meditation Center,” originally posted by Linda N.

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Slowing down March 12, 2008

I believe there is a gift in everything. As August Gold says, what happens to us is really happening for us. While I am still recovering from the concussion I received this weekend, I’m so grateful to have been able to see the gift in this experience. Now, I’m not saying that every moment has felt like a gift–someday I’d love to reach that level of presence–but when I take a step back and look at the big picture, I’m definitely more on the grateful side than not.

One of the biggest things I’ve gotten from this experience is the gift of slowing down. I am almost always busy, which often means I’m multitasking. The last few days I’ve been nearly incapable of focusing on anything other than what’s right in front of me, so I’m having to do things one at a time. And since my thoughts aren’t cooperating with me by moving at their usual speed, I’m also having to do everything more slowly. I love the picture above because it reminds me of how I’ve been feeling lately. I might have been practicing mindfulness last week, but I’ve been living mindfulness this week.

Here are some examples of other gifts I’ve received:

* My presence is a gift. At the hospital on Saturday, I was conscious of the pain and suffering around me, but also the love and caring. I chose to build upon that energy and add my own healing energy into the mix. I closed my eyes and practiced conscious breathing, pulling positive, life force energy from Source into my body through the top of my head (or crown chakra) and sending it out into the hospital through the middle of my chest (or heart chakra). Then I reversed the flow, pulling all of the suffering I sensed out of the hospital and sending it back up into Source. It was a variation on a Ram Dass mediation I used to have on tape that I’ve always loved. It made me realize that my presence in the hospital that day was a gift to those around me, and it gave me something other than how I was feeling to focus on–a win-win situation!

* Surrender to the experience. I’m not always capable of focusing on something other than how I’m feeling. Sometimes the nausea or dizziness is just too great and I get caught up in it. Other times, I am incredibly aware of all of the sensations in my body. It’s like I’m overly sensitive or something, so every time I turn my head it’s almost like I can feel the different signals being sent throughout my nervous system. When I resist the experience by attempting to fight it or ignore it, it just gets worse, probably because I’m adding a level of anxiety or annoyance to it. It leaves me feeling frustrated, heavy, and sad. When I surrender to it, I become fully present in my body, in my breath, in this moment. I can feel the aliveness of my body and for a moment, there is no past or future, there truly is only now. It’s like I’m falling into an ecstatic trance where I notice everything that is happening or that I’m feeling in that moment. It leaves me feeling light, peaceful, and connected, a welcome change of pace for sure.

* Remove your head from the sand. There’s nothing like an illness or injury to send me scurrying for my shovel so I can be an ostrich and bury my head in the sand. I tell myself ignoring and avoiding will make me feel better than dealing with things, which as we know is never true. At least this time I buried myself shallowly so I could pull myself out from time to time and take care of the business at hand. I’ve kept the apartment clean, I’ve taken care of some paperwork for my freelance gig and for my insurance company, and I even managed to call the doctor this morning for the follow up recommended by the hospital. The result? I feel organized, capable, on top of things, and I’m much more aware of the fact that I am getting better each day as my daily tasks get a little easier each day.

* Ask and ye shall receive (especially when it comes to help). Oh wow, is this one ever a biggie for me. I grew up believing that I needed to be strong and independent, which meant I needed to take care of everything for myself. Help was for the weak. I’ve been slowly releasing this concept over the past decade, but it’s like a dandelion with deep roots and lots of scattered seeds. This experience has helped me to uproot it a little bit as I’ve been forced to call upon my husband and other friends for help. And everyone has been wonderful and supportive, of course. My friend Melanie wrote a guest post for my blog on Monday when I wasn’t feeling like I could string words together to form full and complete sentences. My friend Beth is picking me up in a couple of hours to take me to a reunion dinner we are going to tonight. My husband has pitched in wherever he could, from helping with breakfast and dinner preparation to picking up around the house to running errands for me after work. And that doesn’t even touch on all the long-distance love, support, and prayers that have come down the pipeline. When you ask for help, you get to experience all the love that is always present in life, sometimes even from unexpected sources.

What this all amounts to me is “Stay Fully Present,” a lesson I’ve been attempting to learn for years. That’s the funny thing about the way the universe works–sometimes you have to literally be hit over the head with it before you finally get it. Keep your fingers crossed the effects are long-lasting this time. Namaste.

Photo: “Slow The World Down,” originally uploaded by Taro Taylor

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