Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mojo Monday ~ What if...

by Michelle Fairchild

What if...

Your purpose was simple?

What if...

Love is all that matters?

What if...

Our collective purpose on this planet was Love?

"Love Thy Neighbor" by Kay Smith
What if...

All we really had to do during our time on this planet was to love one another?

What if...

After Love, everything else about having a purpose was secondary?

What if...

We discovered that living and breathing animals all want to live as much as we do?

What if...

We began to live our lives as if Love is all that matters?

What if...

We didn't take things personally?

What if...

We realized we are perfect as we are?

What if...

We forgave yourselves...and everyone else too?

What if...

We gazed into the eyes of our former five-year-old selves?

What if...

We set anything painful from our past down and give it a loving kiss goodbye?

What if...

We all released our fears?

What if...

We took exceptional care of ourselves?

What if...

We took exceptional care of our planet?

What if...

We loved ourselves?  Really, really, really loved ourselves?

What if...

We had only a year to live?  A month?  A week?  A day?  An hour?

What if...

We realized that we are all connected?

What if...

We finally understood the mysteries of our world and the universe?

What if...

It was revealed that every single one of us on this planet is a part of God?

What if...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mojo Monday ~ Mary Anne Radmacher On Setting One's Own Sail

by Mary Anne Radmacher

I amused clients today at a trade show.  While engaged in conversation, suddenly an alarm sounding like a motorcycle engine, birds chirping,  or chimes would  sound from my iPhone.  I had preset  alarms to sound throughout the day to remind me to SET MY OWN SAIL.  It’s a process I use when I know I am going to be very busy and really externally focused.  I use systems that remind me to see the joys, to act from my core impulses regardless of my setting. In a trade show there is a lot of pressure to fulfill the “role” of a creative person.  And yet, I wanted to remind myself, beyond expectations and roles...

No one is better at being me than me.  I had many opportunities to choose and embrace my own unique way.  And I did.  Today I remembered that clients do not choose my work because of an image or an expectation, but because it is created, uniquely, by me.   Throughout the day I would remind myself of this and say, "I set my own sails," under my breath.  It was an odd invitation to patience, to empowerment and acceptance.  Yes! it was an invitation to see and savor the “honey in my heart.”

So those little reminder alarms helped set my own sail in stalled traffic as a commute that takes 20 minutes in off-time took over two hours. I set my own sail as calls from a toxic former associate came in.  Just because the phone rings does not mean I have to answer it.  That's what voice mail is for.   That's a “message” itself. In choosing to see the joys in my day, I get to determine the systems I will use, and what things will get a  “yes,” or a “no.”

I set my own sail.  I choose.  I govern.  I see through a lens of my choosing.  I make no one else's decisions for them but I set my own sails. And perhaps tomorrow I will set a few less alarms for myself!

Writer and artist Mary Anne Radmacher shares that people have asked her over the years how she maintains a cheerful outlook in the face of clear and occasionally discouraging circumstances.  Her response is that her book called Honey In Your Heart: Ways to See and Savor the Simple Good Things is her visual, concise, inspiring answer to that question.

Here is an excerpt of the introduction: “My days are fully occupied.  The many commitments and tasks in each day would happily fill my minutes from dawn to dusk – if I let them.  I get to set aside time for the sweetest things in life.  I make room in my heart for ‘honey,’ those things which are sweet, healing, and restorative.  At the end of the day, these small sweetnesses make up the taste that lingers.  These become the real treasures that bring richness to life.”

Mary Anne Radmacher has touched the hearts of tens and thousands with her popular cards, books, posters, journals, and gift books.  She conducts workshops and writing seminars on living a full, creative, and balanced life. 

She is the author of the following books:
Lean Forward into Your Life
Us: Celebrating the Power of Friendship
May You Walls Know Joy
Courage Doesn’t Always Roar
Live with Intention
Live Boldly

Please visit her website:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mojo Monday ~ Be the Change

I look up at the stars and I feel both small and big at the same time.  Gazing at the stars leaves me with both a sense of wonder and a realization that we are all on this planet together, connected.  This week’s headlines in the world news left me feeling sad.  Headlines that feature violent acts, which in turn illicit fear, anger, misunderstanding, disconnection, and calls for revenge and yet more violence.  Such stories can lead people to grow fearful of people that they don’t even know and it can lead to beliefs that there is an “us” and a “them.”

Recently my husband and I saw a bumper sticker that read “I am already against the next war.”  Yes, indeed, that is how we both feel.  Yet, what can we two small individuals do in the big scheme of things to prevent something as big as war? 

I have been reading a book in bits and pieces, as there is much in it to contemplate and digest.  The book is by Ed and Deb Shapiro and is called Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World.  The authors include amongst their own stories the stories and words of more than one hundred meditation practitioners.  Those included vary from Oscar award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn, to Jon Kabat-Zinn who is director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, to best-selling author and inspirational speaker Marianne Williamson. 

In one section entitled “What One Person Can Do” here is what is written:

“One person can make a difference, as we have seen many times throughout history.  Usually, the only thing that stops us from stepping out and taking action is our own sense of inadequacy or doubt.  Rama had a vision of bringing people together, and, as a result, nearly 10,000 Soviet and American citizens have participates in her Citizen Summit programs.  And yet when she began this work, she was a housewife and a yoga teacher with no idea how or if she could do anything.”  Rama Vernon shares this about her story “The Cold War was at its peak.  The Korean Airlines disaster had recently occurred, bringing us very close to a nuclear war.  As I put my children to bed, they would ask, ‘Mommy, are we going to be blown up?’  ‘No, of course not,’ I would reply, reassuring them as much as myself.  ‘Our government would never let that happen.’  And then, through my yoga-teaching work, I was invited to travel with thirty others on a Peace Mission to the Soviet Union.  So, quite unexpectedly, I was in Moscow, standing in the center of what Reagan had termed the Evil Empire, behind what Churchill has called the Iron Curtain.  I was raised to believe that our thoughts create our reality, and what scared me most was that I was not alone in my fear, that thousands of Americans shares those same fear, and that if enough of us continued to hold those fears, we would create the very thing that we feared most.  I realized that the only way to change such a stereotype that we have been conditioned to believe is to bring people face to face with one another.  We could not take the Russians to the United States, so I resolved to bring the United States to Russia.”

While there is a great deal of depth in this book, there is also sometimes humor.  One such moment is when Ed Shapiro’s shares a personal story about him and his wife Deb’s private meeting with HH the Dalai Lama: “After some thirty minutes of discussion, I was feeling so moved by this gentle, simple, and loving man that I just wanted to stay there and learn from him.  I did not want to leave!  I was completely in love with the compassion and wisdom emanating from this delightful being.  Finally, I said to him, ‘I don’t want to leave; I just want to stay here with you!’ I thought he would say yes, how wonderful, I recognize your sincerity, but instead he just smiled and said, ‘If we were together all the time, we would quarrel!’”

It was both surprising and refreshing to hear that a revered spiritual leader and icon like the Dalai Lama could admit to at times being quarrelsome.   It also led to a brilliant realization by Ed when he shares this about relationships:

“So, relax, if HH the Dalai Lama, someone who meditates for a few hours every day, can quarrel, then so can we!  Inevitably, there are going to be times when a relationship is troubled, when differences collide and egos clash, when stories and histories intrude, or needs are not met.  But the holding on to such disagreements and the ensuing shame, blame, and hostile silence is the real problem.  There will always be times of flow and times of discord.  Having a disagreement or even getting angry does not make us an angry person; it is not the whole of us.  Who we are is still basically good; we needed to make a point and just may have done it in a rather unskilled way.”

Interfaith Peace mandala
When Deb and Ed Shapiro were with the Dalai Lama they also asked him what they could do to help humankind to awaken to caring and kindness.  The Dalai Lama said that people of different religions should come together in peace and respect and talk openly, honoring each other’s differences and similarities. 

Do you meditate?  If yes, do you do it regularly and why? 

What are your thoughts about being the change?  Do you feel empowered to create change? If yes, how?  If no, why?

What do you think you could do to make a difference? 

In the midst of events taking place on the larger political scene there are things that give me hope and that demonstrate how people from around the world want us to come together in peace.  On I came across a slideshow of photos taken at a pro-USA demonstration in Libya following the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  You can find the slideshow of photos by clicking here

I have also been following the Israel Loves Iran campaign on Facebook.  The photos, letters and stories that continue to be published on-line are incredibly touching and show the very personal side of people who do not wish to be at war with one another.  Here are a handful of the photos that have been shared.

Hillary Clinton also made powerful remarks in light of the recent violence.   

If you would like to read more about meditation and transformation ~  Here are some more stories that appear in the book Be the Change:

Sylvia Boorstein – “The point of meditation is to keep the mind free of confusion. Meditation, past calming our nerves, past being good for our blood pressure, past allowing us to work out our own internal psychological dramas, which it does, past helping us to get along with our kin and our community, is a way of really deeply seeing the truth that the only way to ameliorate our own suffering and the suffering of the world is to keep our minds clear.”

Robert Gass and Judith Ansara – “We can get lost in the story, which usually has fault or blame attached to it---I’m feeling this because this happened or you said that---and so we have learned to just drop the story.  Even when we are not in the place that we would like to be, we do not process about how we got there or about how we are going to get out of it; we just stop, because otherwise we can start tearing at each other.  Usually, one of us will say, ‘Are we having a conversation that is contributing to the greater good?’  We get connected first and then talk about what was disconnecting us, rather than tearing at each other from a place of disconnection, thinking that will get us connected.”

Seane Corn – “First yoga changed my body; then meditation changed my attitude.  Then I realized that whether my practice was fifteen minutes or four hours was irrelevant because it was not about how yoga changed me, but how I, through this practice, can being to change the world.  What I really felt was how dare I not step into the world and hold that space?” 
“I first started by working with child prostitutes in Los Angeles.  I did not know how my life was going to change when I entered the shelter, but I met my shadow there.  I hated those girls ---and it wasn’t just girls, it was young boys too---they were so arrogant and defiant as they were so wounded.  They were also like a mirror in which I saw the part of myself that had been abused, and how I had nto dealt with my own defiance, arrogance, or wounding.  They really did not accept me at first.  Are you kidding?  This big-mouthed, floppy-headed white girls from new Jersey bounding in to tell them how to do yoga?  They slaughtered me!  It was the most humiliating experience I had ever had because I went in trying to fix them.  I did not go in there recognizing that I am them.  They took one look at me and were totally unimpressed.  No way I wanted to go back.  I sat in my car and cried and cried. The next time I went, I was way more humble as I had recognized that we were there to serve each other.”

Ajahn Sumedho – “We are not isolated entities; we do affect each other.  The more we experience this in meditation, the more we recognize how our own relationship to society need not be one of just being critical or putting up with or ignoring it, but of using our abilities, intelligence, and talents to serve each other.  If I feel a sense of ‘me’ as a self-centered isolated being, then I will just think of my own immediate pleasure or needs and I have no relationship of sensitivity to anything else.  But as I open to the truth of our connectedness, then I have a respect for all life; I no longer see others as just there for my own selfish exploitation.”

Kirsten Westby-  “I needed to mediate before I could even leave my room in the morning.  It gave me the strength to recognize that suffering is the human experience that we all have in one form or another, and not to feel overwhelmed by it, not to lose my balance…I worked with Urgent Action Fund for five years, traveling into war zones and listening to stories of what was happening to women and girls…More than anything else, meditation released me from anger.  I could feel anger coming up, but I knew that my way of surviving and working in this context was to let it go, to know that these boys were not the enemy, but were just as much a victim of this whole machine of war, forced into the army at such a young age.  Really there was no enemy; it was just a whole environment of people who had been used and abused.  I would constantly remind myself of their human qualities so I could start the day without any aggression.”

Joseph Goldstein – “There is one basic understanding that helps us in every dimension of relationship; that each one of us is totally responsible for our own emotions.  Some time ago, I was in a relationship with someone and as we were having a little argument, she turned to me and said, ‘Stop making me feel aversion.’  I started to laugh, which, of course, did not help the situation, but nobody makes us feel anything.  How we feel and how we relate to what we are feeling is completely up to us.  Generally, we blame others for how we feel; we think others are responsible for our mind states.  If we all took responsibility for our own emotions, then most of our interpersonal relationships would be a lot easier.”  “If we have the view that other people are responsible for how we feel, then we are turning over all the power to them.  We cannot control what other people do—their minds, their attitudes, or their behaviors.  But if we understand that how we are feeling is completely up to us, then we can reclaim that power.  Then, no matter what anybody else does, it is up to us how we react, how we relate.  Nobody can make us feel a certain way.”

Mark Matousek – “Albert Einstein described human self-absorption as a kind of optical delusion of consciousness.  Our obsession with physical survival prevents us from seeing beyond this primitive level, which is why meditation is so mind blowing.  Dropping below the animal level, we discover another way of seeing and being that is more vast, inclusive, loving, and durable than the fearful, self-protective mind we use ordinarily.  With meditation, prayer, yoga, or some tool for reaching through the selfish mind to our greater nature, we are doomed to remain in the animal mind.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mojo Monday - Our Stories

What do we know about the world?  How do we know what we know?  We might respond that we have learned about our world through books and classes we have taken in school.  What it comes down to is that our human world is based on story.   For thousands of years stories were memorized and passed down verbally through the generations.  Once written language came into being stories were recorded in written form.

I have always loved stories and probably because of this I became an avid reader at a very early age.  I also loved learning about the world, different cultures and the history of the people who have inhabited this planet for thousands of years.  My six year old twin daughters just started first grade and we had an option at their school to have them take an early morning enrichment class in which they will learn Spanish and about Latin culture.  One day after picking them up from school they were excited to share with me the new Spanish words they had learned that day.  They asked me “Where do people speak Spanish?” and I explained a bit about Spain and then how the Spaniards had traveled to what is now known as Mexico, and how the language was adopted by this other land.  My daughter Aubrey then asked me from the back seat “Mommy, how do you know all these things?”  It was such a curious question and I responded that I had learned about these things from books and classes and that my love of history led me to take a lot of history classes. 

While I may have a college degree in history I sometimes still wonder “What is history?”  Sure there are some hard facts involved with so-and-so being born on such and such a date, or a war beginning in a particular place on a particular date, but those facts are part of a bigger story, a human story.  While we may think that our history books are based on facts, they are also infused with the perceptions and biases of the historians that wrote them in their current time.  How historians view something in a particular era, century, or even in a particular decade, changes and evolves, because the historians themselves are going to be influenced by their own life story, which has been formed by the time period they grew up, their personal views, opinions, prejudices and personal experiences.   There are also the ones behind the scenes, such as the publisher or the powers behind a publishing house, who may have their own ideas or agendas into what gets published and what doesn’t.  One may try to be impartial and unbiased, but our own stories will and can color how we respond or view things.

One of the papers I wrote for a university history class compiled how the  historical perspectives changed over time regarding Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois and their roles in the civil rights movement.  Both hold a significant place in American history and African American history.  It was fascinating to see how the historical views and opinions regarding these two men shifted and evolved through the years. 

Card from The Voice of Knowledge deck by Don Miguel Ruiz

Where I am leading with this is to a much more personal level.   We all have stories.  Our lives are stories, series of happenings, events, activities, doings, and while some fade into the mists of the past and out of our memories, others stay with us.  Some of them are certainly, and hopefully, positive, and bring forth feelings of nostalgia and can even have the power to conjure up feelings of contentment and happiness even in the present moment.  Yet our human nature also gives us a tendency to remember and hold on to events that were painful, and if we give our stories power and hold to them tightly, these stories can affect us deeply.   We can even give them the power to create very real psychic wounds.  The painful stories, if held onto too tightly, and believed in strongly enough, can unfortunately lead us to negative spaces and dark places. 

Just like any other person walking this earth I have my own collection of stories. Stories about my childhood, my family, events that took place, traditions carried on, my young adulthood, my relationships and on and on and on.  Some of the stories were sweet, others comical, some were painful, and I even allowed a few to take me to dark wounded places.  Some life events came into alignment though that led me to delve deeper into my stories, sometimes so painfully, that I went through what I describe as a dark night of the soul, and yet the healing that took place on the journey has been most remarkable.  These life events include: choosing a life partner, moving, marrying, becoming a mother to twins, struggling in my marriage, shutting down, gaining 100 lbs, retreating from relationships, experiencing shifts in friendships, questioning my life purpose, developing cracks in my rose-colored glasses, entering into therapy, learning to accept, then like and love myself, forgiving both myself and others, finding a tribe and community (Cosmic Cowgirls) that nurtures me, gaining courage, taking chances, entering into marriage counseling and therapy one more time, claiming to be an artist and writer, writing, painting, learning, teaching, loving and grasping the true meaning of grace.

I have been contemplating and wondering about how we hold onto and process our pain and wounds.  What I realize from own experiences it that it took doing a few key things that culminated in me seeing my stories with new eyes.   The first was the talk therapy that helped to purge all the really old stuff that had been crammed into my soul for way too long.  Yet, I know that talk therapy would not have been quite enough to help move me through my process.  What also deserves a great deal of credit for the personal growth and healing that took place is the work I have done with Cosmic Cowgirls.  I entered into the tribe via attending the Bountiful conference in October 2008.  The work that Cosmic Cowgirls is doing is revolutionary.  There is a reason that women from all walks of life, artists, writers, therapists, healers, poets, dancers, singers, spiritual leaders and creatives of all types, are being drawn to the courses and workshops being offered.   While some women may be initially drawn to the painting portion of the classes, or others to the writing part of the classes, it is how everything is blended together spiritually, that leads one through a process unlike any other.  

What is it that Cosmic Cowgirls offers that promotes healing and personal growth? As an example I will share my most recent experience at the Cosmic Cowgirls Feast of Frida Story Weaving workshop.  Our Cosmic Cowgirls always begin with us gathering in circle.  The space is safe and sacred.   During our circle time we share in the Red Thread Ceremony where a long red thread is passed from woman to woman as we share our names and usually some word or sentence that gives insight into where we are at or what we wish to gain from our experience with one another.  The Red Thread Ceremony always concludes with each woman getting to keep a piece of the red thread as it represents how we are all connected to one another. 

In this particular workshop we were focused on artist Frida Kahlo and yet we also took it to a very personal level by reflecting on our own stories.  We created paper altars over the course of the two days and they came into being from prompts, by quiet reflection, journaling, sketching, some one-on-one sharing, and then turning the stories into art with drawings and paintings. 

This particular process had us pick one particular story from our past.  In the first corner of the panel of the altar one was to share a story about something that had happened.  An example given was of a woman who was told her art wasn’t any good while the art instructor tore up her picture.    In this particular version the person was then to depict what she decided about herself based on that one experience or story.  In this particular situation the woman decided or came to believe that she had no artistic abilities.  The next panel or part of the story was to share how this experienced had informed who she was now.  In our example this woman feels sad and feels creatively stuck.  In processing this story she is asked if this story is true.  Does this one experience really mean she is not an artist?  Does the opinion of this art instructor really mean anything?   The woman was then asked to claim a new belief about herself, in essence to create a new story for herself.  In her new story this woman gets to claim herself an artist and free her creative spirit. 

Card from The Voice of Knowledge deck by Don Miguel Ruiz

What I found refreshing for me during this experience is that most of my old stories had lost their charge.  I knew what the old story was and I could write about it and talk about it, but I no longer felt that emotional tug when I thought about it.  It was an aha moment of realizing how far I had come in healing old wounds.  Writer and inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant states that “When you can tell the story and it doesn’t bring up any pain and tears, then you are healed.”   I found that when it came to creating my own personal altar I was much more focused on my image that represented me today and on what I was claiming for me now and in the future.  Most importantly I really believed what I was claiming, rather than it being wishful thinking or about where I wanted to get to at some point in the future.

Creating new stories for oneself may take some time.  It may also take time to release old stories.  Some questions to ask yourself as you consider your own stories are “How does this story serve me and my life?”  Is it helpful?  Does it make me feel good or bad about myself?  Is it healing or hurtful?  If it protected me in the past, do I still need protecting now? 

You can also consider viewing your own stories through a more neutral and objective lens.  If you have ever felt that you are not enough.  Take a step back and ask yourself “Is that true?”   

Author Kris King who wrote a beautifully thoughtful book called My Heart Has Wings: 52 Empowering Reflections on Living, Learning, and Loving wrote this about telling stories, “If you want your future to be a repeat of your past, keep telling your story.  If you want your future to be a bold and daring adventure, start dreaming. The choice is yours!” 

At Cosmic Cowgirls we believe that you get to write your story, paint your story, dance your story, dream your story, sing your story, create your story and most certainly, even turn your story into poetry.