Jean Anne Costa
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Financial Prosperity

Affirmation: We attract financial prosperity.



Money! I’m fairly thrifty on most things. But, I don’t like to feel like I have to be thrifty. I like to choose to be thrifty. Can you see the difference? It reminds me of some diets I’ve been on. As soon as I felt I was denying myself of some specific food, I wanted it more. I belong to Weight Watchers Online and I am fascinated by the amount of food I can eat and also that I can eat anything I want, within a reasonable amount. It seems to be working for me. It’s the same with money, I don’t mind watching my pennies, I just want to do it because I have a responsibility to be financially aware and prudent not because we are in dire straits. Maybe an ounce of prevention will help to keep us from being in real financial difficulties, maybe.

The affirmation: We attract financial prosperity is one of the few affirmations in which I include my husband. Our finances are totally interwoven. I guess that’s fairly normal after more than 40 years of marriage. I remember the first time I told him about this affirmation. I told him it was: “I attract financial prosperity.” We were in church. He was pretty skeptical. Then the donation basket was passed and I asked him for some additional cash to put in it. Being the great guy he is, he immediately handed me more money. “See”, I said, “I do attract financial prosperity!” He smiled and just shook his head.



The topic of money is a very touchy topic. Think about it, almost any topic seems to be fodder for the media, especially the talk shows. We all seem to know more about people, especially the “stars” than we ever wanted to know. But, seldom is money, especially someone’s income an open topic. Do you know how much money any of your friends or relatives make? Probably not. It’s the final taboo. It’s also the number one reason for people to divorce. Many couples come into a relationship with completely opposite ideas about finances. One wants to “save for a rainy day” and another wants to “enjoy the moment.” Finding a happy medium appears to be a real stumbling block for many marriages.

My study group, The Seekers, read the book Second Blooming for Women. One of the topics has led to a lot of discussion both within and outside the group. The statement is, “If money were no object ________.” How would you fill that in? I love asking people this question.

My husband has a story about being in speech class in college. He decided to speak about the song “If I Ruled the World.” To gather information, he went around asking people what they would do if they ruled the world. One person he asked was a young co-worker. He was the delivery fellow at their local pharmacy. This young man gave the question a great deal of thought and finally shared, “I would have someone set me up in business.” Sandy, my hubby, said, “I don’t think you get it. You RULE the whole world.” The young man again gave it quite a bit of thought and what do you think he answered? “Yup, if I ruled the world, I’d have someone set me up in business. That’s what I’d do.”

When I was first confronted with the fill in the blank about money, I must admit my vision was limited. Not as much as the delivery guy but more than I like to admit. Then, after speaking with my group, I found myself imagining all sorts of altruistic activities. “No object” you say, “Well, I’d cure cancer, make sure everyone had any proven, available inoculations, feed the hungry, especially the children and finally, I would make a supreme effort to educate the women of the world.” I might have to own a private jet in order to get around tending to the whole world but I’m willing to do whatever is necessary.

 

Then came the real revelation. Money may be limited but that doesn’t mean I can’t still devote some of my income to those things I feel are important. My donations may not take care of the whole world but it would at least take care of a part of it. I do set aside part of our income to give to charity. As we shared some of our ideas, it came to me that I have also been giving money to educate women. I make a monthly donation to my high school, Saint Agnes Academic High in College Point, N.Y. It’s an all girl school and I credit it and the teachers I had for the life I now live. It was a wonderful environment. It showed me my potential. I had nuns and lay teachers who had their PHDs in Mathematics, English, and Latin, to name a few subjects. They were remarkable women and by being in their presence, I began to see that I too could educate myself and reach heights I never before dreamed possible.

What about you? If money were no object what would be your priorities? Remember, we are spiritual beings. We have the gifts and ability to tap into the unseen, the unknown, the power of God! Truly, the only limits that exist are the limits we place on ourselves. It’s our choice; do we go to the ocean with a thimble, a bucket or a pipeline? It’s all yours just like the sun shines on all of us, prosperity can belong to everyone; dream large.

Letting Go of Childhood Limitations

Affirmation:  I let
go of my childhood limitations.

How can one be over the age of 50, 60, 70 and still be restricted
or controlled by emotions and concepts that influenced them as they were
growing up?  How can one not?  I’m speaking about those emotions and
concepts that deter us from true joy, that interfere with our ability to
completely savor and embrace life.  And, is it even possible to release
oneself, to become an adult in one’s own right?  Is it possible to grasp
the positive qualities that serve us and our loved ones and let go of those,
perhaps at least acknowledge and appreciate the experience but then let go of
those concepts that are damaging us?

Part of the creative process encouraged in Julia Cameron’s The
Artist’s Way
, is an examination of what one felt was lacking in their
childhood.  I was a lucky person.  Looking back on my childhood I remember a lot
of freedom and amazingly, even with all that freedom, I never experienced any
trauma.  My mother and my father worked
very hard and while my grandparents lived below our one bedroom apartment for
the first ten years of my life, that was about the extent of our family.  My father was an only child and my mom’s
siblings were more than a decade older than her and did not live close.  I grew up in Jamaica, Queens.  When the city was preparing for the 1964
World’s Fair, they took down all the trees along my street, Grand Central
Parkway, and I could actually see the Empire State Building from my house. 

It was not an inner city neighborhood but it was close.  Most of the houses were attached brick homes
with the driveway in the back alley.  We
had about ten square feet of lawn in the front and my dad paved over the back
yard so we had room to park our cars.  My
mom had a clothes line that went from the second story kitchen window to a pole
out back and she hung most of our laundry out to dry.  I would head out to play early in the day and
wouldn’t return until the street lights went on.  We played hard.  We skated, rode bikes, climbed walls and
trees.  We played tag, jumped rope and
played stick ball.  In the winter we ice
skated several miles from the house and rode our sleds down the back alley
driveways.  No one ever seemed to come
look for us and if you can imagine, we didn’t have cell phones!  We were free. 
We had a lot of choices.  I grew
up believing I could do anything.  I
wasn’t sure what that was or where it would lead me, but there were no
boundaries for me as a child.  I assumed
there wouldn’t be any for me as an adult. 
Oh, I was well aware of the fact that I was a girl but when it came to
running, climbing and skating, I was equal to any boy.  It wasn’t until college that I discovered
women were expected to only follow certain paths. 

After Julia has you examine what you thought you lacked as a
child, she then encourages you to find ways to parent yourself, to nurture
yourself.  You can’t begin to let go and
to heal until you recognize what it is you were missing.  Maybe you never felt loved enough.  Maybe you never felt valued enough.  My parents were so busy that I never felt I
received enough affection.  Of course, so
much of our childhood memories can be so skewed.  I once heard the story of a young woman who
recalled a fainting episode to her mother. 
She was shocked to learn she hadn’t fainted at all, it had been her
sister!  But, whether or not our feelings
are based on reality or perception, doesn’t matter.  They are our feelings.  I can still recall childhood incidents that
make me feel sad or happy or frightened and my childhood ended more than half a
century ago.  And now life moves
onward.  There are times when you need to
let go of any junk you feel about your childhood.  At some point if you hope to be healthy and
happy you simply need to “get over it.” 

I am my mother’s main caregiver.  I am very blessed because
at 90 she is still extremely healthy and independent.  I’m the oldest of
three and mom chose to move near me over 15 years ago.  She made the move
all by herself.  She likes to be independent and self- sufficient. 
It empowers her as it probably does most of us.  My prayer for Mom is that
she will continue to have joy and maintain dignity as she finishes out her
life.  I only want to love her and enjoy her presence. I want to be the
“good little girl” and make her happy.  I want to take whatever
steps needed to help her feel better, to make her happy.  I’m 66 years old
and the child in me still wants to please my mother but I know, this is a fact,
that no matter what or how much I do, I cannot please her long term.  I
cannot make her happy.  Sister Mary Margaret from A Place for Women to
Gather says, “Happiness is an inside job.”  There is only one person who
can make us happy, us. 

That’s why I create affirmations.  It’s all up to me what I
think, how I perceive life, how I feel.  I cannot remain the good little
girl and live frustrated and sad because of anyone. I must let go of ALL
my childhood limitations and embrace my own adult determination to create my
own happiness.  Have you looked at your childhood limitations?  Are
they interfering with the quality of your life?  Can you too release
them?  Do you want to?

A reporter went to interview a man who was very down on his
luck.  He had lost everything dear to him
and had fallen into a chronic alcoholic state. 
“Why do you think your life has turned out this way?” he asked.  The man shared with him that his father was
an alcoholic and he never held out much hope for himself.  Then the reporter went to interview the man’s
brother.  He was surprised to find him
leading a very happy, successful life. 
He decided to ask him the same question, “Why do you think your life has
turned out this way?”  The brother said,
“Well, for heaven’s sake, my father was a chronic alcoholic.  I watched him all through my childhood and
decided my life was never going to follow that path.” 

Life is all about our choices. 
We get to choose what lessons we want to learn from our childhood.  We get to decide if we’re going to carry the
sad, remorseful feelings with us into adulthood and let them weigh us down or
if we are going to learn the lesson, release ourselves from the limitations and
grow up healthy and happy. 

Claiming Your Power

Affirmation:  I stand in my power.
How many women do you know who would say they love themselves?  It seems to me, that most women have a lot of difficultly valuing themselves.  Most of the discussions I have with my female friends and women attendees at my workshops are about ways to increase our self-esteem especially as we grow older. 

The intention I set for my yoga practice and for when I teach any class is to “nurture and empower.”  I believe that a regular yoga practice is one of the tools that will help us develop and encourage us to deepen both of those qualities.  Some poses allow us to rest and let gravity hold us while we slowly release more deeply into the pose.  I feel that way when I do Pose of the Child.  In it you kneel down, sit back onto your heels, place your forehead on the floor and rest your arms, hands down, along side of your body.  As you breathe your whole back stretches open from the bottom of your spine up to the top.  Your legs and feet loosen up and your shoulders relax into the ground.  Of, course there is also Savasana, Corpse Pose.  It’s the last pose in most practices when the yogi lies flat out on his or her back, hands placed palms up next to one’s side and let’s gravity hold you while keeping the mind free of the clutter of life.  I always remind my students that this is a very important pose because as one of my mentors, Nancy Hannah, taught me “Mindful movement followed by stillness brings healing to the mind, body and spirit.”

But,  when I practice and when I teach, my mission is to also empower.  There are many poses which can encourage a sense of strength and power.  One of the poses that is frequently included in most practices is Virabhadrasana, Warrior Pose.  There are three Warrior Poses.  The tale surrounding these poses is that a young woman was deeply wounded by her father and decided to shed her body.  While in a meditative state her body burst into flames.  When her husband, the god Shiva, heard of her death he called on his fiercest warrior and named this warrior, Virabhadra,  Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend).  He then ordered Virabhadra to go and revenge his wife’s death, which Virabhadra did.  Nowhere in the story does it say if the warrior is a man or a woman.  You get to choose. When you take a stance for Warrior I, you spread your legs apart, both feet pointing forward, the back foot a little turned out, you bend your front knee, face forward and raise your straight arms overhead.  You ground your feet and lift your torso. In Warrior II, you take the same basic stance, but you turn your torso to the side, place your arms in a tee position, palms down, and gaze out over the front hand. It looks like you’re preparing to throw a spear or a javelin.  In Warrior III, you stand on one leg and your other leg is stretched back and it and your torso and arms are parallel to the ground, like your about to swing out and kick something.  Practicing any one of these stances will elicit a feeling of power in mind, body and spirit. 

A diagnosis and treatment plan for cancer or some other life threatening illnesses, can be a very dis-empowering experience.  Many in the medical field in an attempt to help you save your life forget that you still need to be in charge.  They may need a reminder that you are more than willing to partner with them in your health care but you are not going to allow them to take over your whole life.  Claiming your power in this instance can be the difference between life and death.  If you have a feeling that the caregiver you are working with is not on your team, it is imperative that you resolve the conflict or find a new caregiver.  Follow your instincts and claim your power.  Before I began treatment for breast cancer I decided to practice my Virabhadrasana poses.  I decided I need to take a warrior stance in order to prepare myself for the cancer process.  I found a counselor with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program.  I then gathered my troops about me and got all the information I could find about other steps people have successfully used to empower themselves through this experience; a nutritionist, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, and most importantly, my prayer groups. I invited and allowed any friend who wanted to help me through cancer, to help me in anyway that suited them.  Truly, I entered into that first chemo session fully armed.  I had my family, doctors, nurses and technicians to guide the meds and treatment and I had prayers, information, mediation tapes and a USA Today crossword puzzle.  I was fully prepared for battle.

The first time I heard someone tell me they needed to “stand in their power” I knew immediately what she meant.  Sometimes it’s too easy to think small.  It’s too easy to feel small, to let things go unresolved so that someone’s feelings are not ruffled but that can become a habit that only diminishes our power and our spirit.  Years ago when I was a very young woman there were courses designed to help people become more assertive, not aggressive, they would stress, but assertive.  Mostly these courses were attended by women.  What decides wether or not a woman feels powerful or not or for that matter, how anyone feels about themselves?  I’m sure the first criteria is their childhood experiences.  Were they led to believe they were special, smart, gifted?  Were they encouraged to follow their hearts and their imagination or were they treated poorly or worse?  But, even after such spirit damaging treatment, many people go onto find their self worth. 

Steve Jobs founder of Apple, died in October of 2011.  He changed the face of IT and the way the world saw and used all sorts of technological equipment.  One of the stories about Steve Jobs is that as a child when confronted by another child about his adoption, he became very upset.  The other child asked him how it felt to know he was abandoned by his birth parents.  His adopted parents gave the perfect answer to his question of abandonment.  They explained to him that they had chosen him from all the other children in the world.  For most of us, that would be enough to help us feel better and to value ourselves.  Steve Jobs took it to a whole new level.  He said from that moment on he knew he was not abandoned, he was CHOSEN!

As women age in our society, traditionally their value is diminished.  Older women are not normally looked upon as favorably as older men.  Just look at our older actors versus our older actresses.  But, even if in America you don’t find a lot of older women in the movies, thank heavens for the Brits and Dames Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench.  It seems to me that the values our society holds up as a reflection of “success” are normally male held values.  But, it is changing.  Women today seem to be able to stay true to themselves and still find worldly success.  But, let’s face it sadly, we still don’t have many women officially leading the countries of the world.  We have had, however, many women warriors who have led our society out of darkness and into the light: Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and Helen Keller to name just a few.  And, we do have many more women in professions that were once consider strictly male territory.  When I majored in mathematics in college, I was one of 5 women in a program of about 100 men.  No more!   We now have women leading the fields of medicine, science, law and politics.  But, perhaps, some of your heroines aren’t on this list.  What of our mothers, sisters, friends and mentors?  They may be the women you think of when you think of powerful, strong women. 

What if you believed that every thing you do, everything you say, every thought you have, has an influence on everyone else in the world?  Would you think of yourself as powerful?  I am here to tell you that is true!  Our simple presence in this world, affects everyone else and everything else that exists.  We are interwoven in ways we cannot even fathom.  There is a network of energy that runs from each of us to each other.  Therefore, we have a responsibility to value ourselves and each other.  We have a responsibility to claim our power.  We must all believe in ourselves, we must!  We must recognize and value our contributions, our existence. Men and women alike need to know without doubt that we have value, each of us, and it’s especially important to claim it as we age.  We need to recognize and take credit for the way we have made life better.  It will affect every aspect of our life and every person we encounter.  When you truly claim your power and let your light shine, you give permission to the rest of world to do the same. 

What do you think your life would be like if you believed that you are chosen?  What would it take for you to believe that you are powerful?  What tools can you use to insure that as you move forward you will know that simply because you are, you are important; you are a force with which to be reckoned.  One of the first tools is to stand up and tell yourself, “I am powerful!  I stand in my power!  I claim my power!”  Yes we are chosen, each and every one of us.  We have been chosen by the greatest Father of all time.  Claim your power.  Say it!  Write it!  Watch how your body responds.  An affirmation can feel strange at first but don’t give up, keep with it and one day if you’re not there already, you’ll be in a place where you find yourself standing tall, feeling strong and you’ll know without a doubt that you are valued, you are important, you are loved.

Passionate for Freedom

Affirmation:  I
fully recognize and appreciate the gift of living in a free country and having
the right to make my choices known.

“Our passions are the winds that propel our vessel. Our reason is
the pilot that steers her. Without winds the vessel would not move and without
a pilot she would be lost.“  Proverbs

Have you ever watched a political convention?   Politics is not my favorite
subject, to say the least.  I am a
moderate, a middle of the road citizen. 
I can usually see both sides of an issue and that can leave me very
confused about for whom I should vote.  I
don’t have a very successful record either. 
If a friend or family members favors someone for office they would be
wise to encourage me to vote for the opponent. 
I can’t ever remember voting for the winner in a major election.  But, I always vote.  I may not always be as well informed as I’d
like to be, but I always go and cast my vote. 
I try, I really do try to gather as much information as possible.  I read about the different people, sometimes
I go to meet them but I’ve never been so impressed or enamored by a candidate
that I was sure I was making the best decision. 
The best decision for whom; for me, for my country, for the world?

When I vote I feel like that in itself is the best decision, the
decision to exercise my right to vote. 
When I read about and listen to the sacrifices our ancestors have made
and the oppression that exists in so many countries today, I fully recognize
the gift I have been given with the opportunity to choose those I want to
represent me, my city, state and country.

I pray daily for wisdom for our world leaders.  There seems to be so many politicians whose
only concern is their power and their prestige. 
Perhaps, that’s why I’m not very passionate about politics.  I don’t have much faith in the people who
chose to be politicians.  I can’t imagine
what drives so many of them to put themselves so far out into the public’s
eye.  I wonder, so often, if it’s not
simply a grand ego trip.  I want to
believe that a person who is running for office is more concerned about me, his
or her constituent, than he or she is about themselves.

When I watch the conventions, the men and women who present
themselves with passion about their concerns and about their desires to uplift
and empower us, their represented, I am almost relieved, relieved that someone
comes across with what I think is a genuine spirit.  But, it’s the people, the audience with whom
I am so fascinated.  I am sure there is a
selection process for those attendees. 
I’m sure some have been going for years; maybe it’s a family
tradition.  I know in many ways it’s a
fun experience.  I’ve been to several
business conventions.  The energy
generated by a group of people with a common goal is always palpable.

In 2010 my husband, Sandy, was a keynote speaker for Toastmasters
International in Las Vegas.  It’s an
amazing organization and we were very excited to be there.  There were over 2000 people there from all
over the world.  We met people from
Africa, Asia, Australia and places that began with many other letters besides
“A.”  It was 3 days of high energy, lots
of stories and shared visions.  I would
imagine being at a political convention would be similar.

Passion is the world that comes to mind when I watch the people
in attendance.  Passion!  They must truly love and care about the
process we have here in the United States to decide our own destiny and they
must believe completely in that process. 
They have devoted time, energy and talent to participate in the
process.  I find it inspiring.  I believe we all need passion in our lives.

Passion is that quality of life that keeps our hearts beating and
our spirits soaring.  I believe being
passionate about our country, even with its zits, is a worthy pursuit, a just
passion.  I am proud to be an
American.  I am grateful to live in a
land of peace and freedom.  I believe the
United States is a place where dreams can come true.  I am grateful to be a woman living here in
the United States rather than in some oppressive regime.  I believe in our compassion as a people and a
nation.  I value the sacrifices so many
Americans have made and continue to make to help others both here and throughout
the world.

Vote?  For whom will I
vote?  That’s not as important as if I
will vote.  That choice, no that
obligation, is one thing about which I am passionate.  There once was an article in USA Today stating
that thousands of Americans don’t vote. They simply don’t care or they don’t believe
it can make a difference.  Men and women
have died, are dying, punished and even imprisoned because they want, they
demand, the right to have a voice in their destiny.  Yes, I will not let this gift, this opportunity
go unused, unappreciated, The United States of America is the greatest country
in the world.  And, I for one, will
exercise my privilege and hope and pray that I am casting a vote for someone
with passion who will work and lead my country and perhaps our world towards
the highest and best we can possibly be. 
I hope you will join me.

Who Are These People?

Affirmation:  I am a Bold Adventuress!

When
Geraldine Lucas was 58 years old she became the first woman to climb the Grand
Teton.  She retired as a teacher in the
east and packed herself up and established a homestead in Wyoming in what is
now the Grand Tetons National Park.  In
the beginning she didn’t even have electricity or running water!  It appears from the stories I was told while
traveling through the area that women were very influential in the development
of this state and in its governing. 
 
The
brave, adventurous spirit must continue to thrive in this part of the world
because wherever Sandy and I traveled in Wyoming we found people with an
amazing sense of adventure. 
 
Pink’s
name tag had “Taiwan” printed under her name.  She was a waitress in Yellowstone National
Park.  I was in awe.  She was there just for the summer.  “You are so brave.” I
commented.  “No” she said in
very broken English “I came here with my classmate.” “How
many?” I asked.  “One.”
she answered.  Wherever we went the name
tags told us from where the seasonal employees came.  They were from faraway places like China,
Ecuador, Russia, and of course, they were also from different parts of the
United States.  I wanted to know if they
were enjoying their experience and almost all of them told me they were having
a wonderful time.  One young woman said
she couldn’t believe someone was paying her to show people the beauty of
Yellowstone.  This same young woman had
spent a few of her free days hiking and tenting in the park with another gal,
just them and their bear spray!  Another
young man said it was his 4th summer. 
“What’s not to like?  I’m
getting paid and in my free time I get to hike and fish all summer.” 
 
When my
husband and I talk about the opportunities presented to us as young people we
recognize that we simply had no knowledge of the kind of experiences that might
have been available then, that are available to people today, all people.
 
We met
some of the coolest adults while traveling through the National Parks.  Did you know people of all ages work as
seasonal workers in the parks?  And, the
most fascinating part, for me, is everyone I spoke with was having a wonderful
time.  It was the 14th year of service
for one of the seasonal rangers we met. The first time I met an older adult who
worked in the parks was in Yosemite. 
Sandy and I went to a Sunday service in the tiny church in the
park.  At one point we were encouraged to
greet the other people attending the service and to chat with each other.  One woman we greeted told us she and her
husband were seasonal workers.  They had
sold their home and all of its contents, bought an RV and each year since, they
had chosen a different park to work in during the summer.  My eyes were as big as quarters as I
listened.  My husband looked
shocked.  I think he was afraid I was
going to head home and begin the process of becoming a National Park gypsy. 
 
One of
our guides shared with us the story of how he met his wife.  It was July in Alaska and he was doing
research, out in the wild all by himself. 
He was a professor of geology at one of the universities up there and in
the summers he trekked through the wilderness for weeks on end collecting
samples.  The weather turned unusually
cold and it began to snow. He was concerned about getting back to civilization
when he heard voices off in the distance. 
He could see through his binoculars that three people were huddled
around a fire with a raft pulled up onto the shore.  As he was looking through his binoculars, one
of the women on the river trip was looking through her binoculars; their eyes
met and it was love at first sight.  They
had been married 14 years at the time of his story.  He said his friends were right when they told
him it would be “a snowy day in July” before he met someone who would
marry him. He went onto say she saved him in more ways than one.  He wasn’t sure he would have made it out of
the wilderness if he hadn’t met up with them and their raft.  His wife to be and two friends had been
dropped off at the top of a seldom traveled river with a pickup date and time
scheduled for two weeks later.  It was
quite a daring thing to do but it wasn’t her first trek into the unknown.  As a young single mother she had gone to live
with friends, saved all her money and had taken her 12 year old son on a 2 year
trek around the world in a van.
 
Who are
these people?  It’s all I can think to
ask when I meet these adventurous spirits. 
It’s all I can think to ask when I read and hear about the pioneers of
the past.  I believe there’s a fine line
between bravery and stupidity.  Sometimes
I think the only way to know which side of the line one is on, is afterwards,
by the results of one’s actions.  If you
enter into a dangerous situation and you come through unscathed or stronger for
it, you might be considered brave.  If
you don’t come through, you’ll probably be considered stupid.  But, don’t all pioneers begin their journeys
on paths unknown and untested?  Where
would we be without people willing to step way outside of their comfort zones?
 
In the
Grand Tetons we also had the opportunity to watch several para-gliders come off
one of the mountains and soar above us as they came to land at our feet.  It was mesmerizing to watch.  I was ready to give it a try, next time, but
once again, the question arose, “Who are these people?” Who was the
first one to step off the mountain with a parachute attached to them?  Were they brave or were they dumb?  Does it matter? If no one is willing to go
out and see and try that which is new, there would be no growth.  Think of all we would be missing today?
 
I for one
am grateful for the spirit that takes people to places unknown.  I am grateful for those in our society who
are willing to challenge themselves so that those of us who are not as
adventurous or as spirited, get to follow in their footsteps, get to see and
enjoy and experience things we might never have had the opportunity to
experience except that they paved the way for us. They are our forefathers and
our foremothers and they are those who are still with us, the students and
seasonal workers of our parks and perhaps those amazing people within our
circles who also help us broaden our horizons because of their bravery and
courage.
 
This, for
me, is the blessing of travel.  I get to
see the world differently than I would have had I stayed home in my cozy little
world.  I get to meet people and hear
stories I’d never have met or heard if I were afraid to venture outside of my
comfort zone.  It’s true, I wasn’t the to
first step off the mountain and try to soar; I am not the one living in a tent
and listening for bears; I’m not the one rafting down an unknown river or even
taking a new job in an unfamiliar location but I am the one enjoying the fruits
of all these pioneers because I am the one, perhaps a lot like you, that did
travel to unknown places both out in the world and then, even more importantly,
inside to within, to my heart and to my spirit to discover that maybe there
have been at least a few times in my life and maybe more, when I could answer,
“I am one of those people.” 

Younger Next Year

Affirmation: The
Best is yet to come.

What
age would you tell someone you are if you didn’t know what age you are?  Stephen Levine asked this question at a
seminar on Death and Dying that he was presenting many years ago.  Sometimes, I find myself asking myself that
question.  When I’m on a golf course, I
feel about 25.  Not because I’m a good
golfer but because I always feel like a newbie even though I have played on and
off for over 40 years.  After I was
treated for cancer, I aged about ten years, in one year.  Before cancer I would have answered that I
was about 35, after cancer I felt like 45. 
I guess that was ok since at the time I was treated I was 52.  I haven’t “aged” much over the last two
decades which makes me wonder if that shows a lack of maturity, a lack of
self-awareness or complete denial about the passing of time. 
My
first visit to Canyon Ranch in Arizona was over a decade ago.  I was looking for a way to learn about how to
best take care of my health and I had read a lot about the resort and decided
to give it a try.  It’s a wonderful
place, very holistic and almost surreal. 
It met all my expectations.  While
there the founder and owner, Mel Zuckerman did an early morning presentation
about the beginning of the ranch and why he started it.  He was very dynamic and I found his story to
be quite inspirational.  He said when he
first arrived in Arizona he was not in good health.  One of the first tests he took determined his
“age” based on his physical condition. 
He was about 55 at the time and the test came back that he was in his
70s. Now, he was in his 70s and after years of training and healthy food and
other practices, his “age” tested at 55. 
At the time that seemed like a radical concept, becoming “younger”
as one ages but now there is a lot of information about getting stronger and
healthier as we age.  One of my personal
favorites is Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D.
A
friend told me “Growing old is not for the weak of heart.”  I know the number one determining factor about
how we age is our genes.  It’s also the
number one factor determining if we age, but the second most influential factor
is how and what we think about the aging process.  In the Omega Institute’s first Conscious
Aging conference one speaker shared his research into the number one factor
concerning the age at which we will die. 
After years of research, he found it was determined mostly by when we
thought we would die. 
As
of this writing my mother’s best friend is 96. 
Many mornings when I am entering the gym at 9 or 9:30, she is on her way
out.  She has already finished her
workout.  She peddles the bike for 15
minutes, she uses the rowing machine for 15 minutes and then she does the
weight machine circuit.  She drives
herself there and then she heads to Trader Joe’s for her daily shopping
expedition.  She is one of my
heroines.  She had a broken tibia when
she was 94 and was in rehab for almost 9 months.  I was sure that was “it” for her.  I couldn’t imagine her recovering from such a
break at such an advanced age.  It’s good
I didn’t share that with her because she never doubted she was going to heal
and return to living in her own home on her own and back to a full, rich life
and so she did!
Have
you listened to what people say about their health?  Have you had the opportunity to hear people
speak about their memories, their backs, their knees, eyes, hearing, stomachs,
etc?  It seems a day never passes when
someone isn’t claiming that age is the reason for some ailment with which they
are dealing.  People seem to be looking
for a reason why they are deteriorating and it’s so easy to claim it’s age
related. 
Dr.
Andrew Weil had a PBS special on how to live a healthier older life.  He recognized that the body does change.  We are always changing and that we might need
to make adjustments as we go along.  Most
of us seem to fall into that category and then there are the people who are in
their 80’s or 90’s and are still running marathons.  What works for one simply may not work for
another.  We need to create a personal
life plan for each individual.
My
cousin’s mother was almost 100 when she was diagnosed with dementia.  Of course, they were told, it was a normal
condition for someone her age.  Another
physician asked the family if their mother had been tested for a thyroid
problem.  No, she had not been
tested.  A few days after beginning the
proper medication, she was back to her normal self. 
Do
yourself a favor, don’t claim your ailments. 
Certainly, they can be a part of your life but let them be just that, a
part of your life.  Don’t let them
determine who you are.  Don’t identify
with them.  Even a serious diagnosis does
not have to determine your identity.  I
have met more people who introduce themselves to me by telling me about their
physical challenges.  Sometimes, it’s the
first thing they tell me after their name. 
I want to shout “Get behind me Satan! 
Don’t do that!  You are greater
than whatever ailment you’re dealing with. 
Find another way to view yourself, to view your problem.”  Truly, it’s not a lack of compassion on my
part.  It’s actually very
compassionate.  I want to tell them they
are injuring themselves even further by focusing on their diagnosis.  Put it aside, put it on a shelf and go do
something fun or better yet, go do something for someone else. 
You
have the power to heal yourself!  It is
within all of us.  Claim it!  Yes, it may mean making some changes, getting
help.  It may mean medication, surgery, a
change in diet or exercise but listen closely and you will know what you need
to do to help yourself.  But, the first
thing you need to do is to not identify with your diagnosis.  You need to find a way to make peace, to just
allow it to be and to move away and forward. 
You’ve seen them and you’ve met them, people who don’t only refuse to
allow their ailments and disabilities interfere with their lives but who thrive
in spite of them.  It is possible for all
of us. 

What
do you think the Olympic Athletes tell themselves?  Do you think they focus on their aches, pains
or ailments?  What about Oscar Pistorius,
the “fastest man on no legs.” He’s had a double below the knee
amputation and runs on two artificial limbs. 
He competed in the 2012 London Olympics. 
How hard do you think that was? 

Rachel
Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom speaks about healing.  She says that sometimes we will not be cured
but we can always be healed.  What we
think about, we bring about.  You might
be dealing with a serious illness but if you choose your thoughts carefully,
you will know you are a glorious creature of God.  You are beautiful!  You are amazing!  You still have a life to live and love to
bestow!  We need to hold onto the belief
that the Best is yet to come and that
we get to choose whether or not to believe it and whether or not we will create
it.
Once
again, we get to choose.  We decided day
to day, moment to moment how we perceive ourselves; how we perceive our
abilities; how we perceive our bodies. 
It’s our greatest power.  It’s the
one thing we have total (at most times) control over.  Claim your health!  Claim your strength!  Whatever it is that is interfering with your
optimal health needs to be reframed, adjusted. 
You may not have to put on two artificial limbs, thank God, but maybe
you need to put on an artificial aid, a new thought process to enable you to
compete in the race of life.
“Healing
may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that
isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you
are.”

Dancing for Life

Affirmation:  I smile early, laugh daily, dance often.

In most cultures
dance is an integral part of life.  Here
in the United States one must make a greater effort to find the opportunity to
dance.  Lately in the media there’s more
about dance than in the last fifty years. There’s Dancing with the Stars and
there’s So You Think You Can Dance.  Even
the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal winner, Ryan Lochte is interested in dancing.  When he was interviewed on Good Morning
America he said he would like the opportunity to compete on Dancing with the
Stars.  And, too, Hope Solo, the 2012
goalie of the Gold Medal Olympic soccer team competed in 2011 on Dancing with
the Stars.  And, the Olympic Gold
Medalist Apolo Ohno speed skating champion, danced his way to the Mirror Ball
Trophy.
Now too, we have
all sorts of dance exercise.  The gym I
go to, Rex Wellness of Cary has had a Latin dance class for many years and of
course there’s aerobics which usually has some sort of upbeat tunes.  As of this writing, Zumba has become very
popular.  And, most yoga classes have
music in the background.
Yoga is not
normally thought of as a form of dance exercise but I have always felt the
vibrations and the rhythm of the music as I practiced the asanas.  When I trained at Kripalu Center for Yoga and
Healing we had several wonderful classes that included live drum music. The
Dance Yoga concept (formerly Dance Kinetics) was actually developed at Kripalu.
At the Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat Saturday evenings are celebrated with Yoga
Dance.
TJ Martin, one of
our gifted yoga teachers and a founding member of the retreat, has led us in
Yoga Dance for the last eight years.  Of
course, there are many different reactions to our dance event.  Some, like myself, can’t wait.
In The Artist’s
Way, Julia Cameron asks you to imagine what you would like to do if you had
several other lives.  It’s a fun exercise
to see what you might be missing that you could actually do in this life.  I would have loved to be more actively involved
in the world of dance.  There have been
times in my life when the music led me to total abandonment.  I love going shopping with my granddaughter,
Isabelle, because she’ll just smile if she sees me dancing about in the store,
unlike my children, who I am sure were mortified by their mother’s lack of
decorum. 
Many of the women
who come to the retreat have been there before but everyone has had that
initial introduction to our evening of Yoga Dance.   TJ does a marvelous job of explaining how
the session is structured.  She explains
that each of the songs are designed to open one of the seven chakras, energy
centers of the body.  A yoga practice
with or without dance can aid in opening the energy centers. The seven chakras
begin at the base of the spine, the Root Chakra and run through the body to the
top of the head, the Crown Chakra. 
Envision a stream of energy or light, moving up through your body,
flowing freely, keeping everything open and clean and soft.  Ancient yoga tradition teaches when the chakras
are opened and aligned, we are balanced and in a state that encourages optimal
health.
TJ brings some
props too.  She brings feather boas and
mesh scarves.  Some of the women bring
coin skirts.  At our last retreat two of
the returning ladies came to the evening session a little late.  They attempted to come in quietly so as to
not disturb the group, the only issue was they had on their coin skirts and had
added bell bracelets and anklets.  They
also were in full flowing skirts and had silk flowers in their hair.  The fun had begun!
TJ begins our evening by inviting us to sit on
our mats.  We move slowly at first.  One of the songs for the 1st chakra is
Breathe.  Then she invites us to stand up
and we move to songs like Feeling Good by Michael Buble. Then the energy begins
to increase and for the 3rd chakra we get to dance to Shake Your Body and New
Attitude for example.  The next set of
songs include songs like We Are Family, Walk of Life, You Raise Me Up and Loka
Samasta. Can you hear it?  Can you feel
it?  Finally, we’re ready to wind down
and we do that to songs like The Empty Sky.
Yoga dance is one
of the healing modalities we offer for the retreat.  One year one of the participants did not seem
to connect with anyone or anything that was being offered.  We would find her sitting in the living room
watching TV while everyone else was chatting. 
She wasn’t very interested in the art projects and her favorite yoga
pose was savasana.  And, then during Yoga
Dance we reached the songs for the 3rd chakra.    I happened to be directly across from her
when the music began and it was one of the most astonishing things I have ever
seen.  A grin came to her face, she lit
up from within and she began to dance with total abandonment.  She didn’t stop until we were ready to lie
down.  Her enthusiasm and love of music
took her to a place during the retreat that nothing else was able to
accomplish.  From then on, she was an
integral part of the group.  People took
the time to tell her how much they enjoyed watching her and dancing with
her.
There have also
been women who refused to dance.  I try
not to judge but I wasn’t always successful. 
But if they return, sooner or later (sometimes years later) something
happens and I will look up and there they will be moving and smiling, and many
times laughing.  It is so very
joyful.  It is so very healing.
I believe we can
enhance our health by sometimes tricking our bodies to think we are feeling
good.  I once read a story about a man
who played the music for silent films. 
He was asked if it was hard to play music that went with the feelings of
the scenes.  He answered he didn’t
concern himself with that.  The music he
chose created the emotions the viewers experienced.
If you’re sad and
you don’t want to be, smile.  If you’re
feeling blue and you don’t want to be, laugh. 
And, if you want to fully embrace life and go a little crazy, turn on
the music and dance.
“Dance as though no one is watching you,

Love as though you have never been hurt
before,

Sing as though no one can hear you,

Live as though heaven is on earth.”  Dr. William W. Purkey

Miraculous Happenings

Affirmation:
My
life is Joy filled, Miracles occur, Love surrounds me and permeates every
aspect of my existence.

We all know that
in the classic Alice in Wonderland, Alice jumps down a rabbit hole into a whole
other unknown, full of adventure, self-examining world.  Sometimes we are pushed down that hole and
sometimes we choose to jump but either way, we get to decide what we’ll learn
and what we’ll take away from our experiences.


After being
treated for breast cancer in 1999, I was left feeling very unsure of what I
should be doing for myself.  During the
intense treatment, which for me lasted almost a year, I was well cared for and
in constant contact with my doctors and other caregivers.  Then the day came when I was
“released.” I had had my last radiation treatment.  We, the family and I, actually threw an
“end of radiation celebration.” Sure, I was scheduled for follow up
mammograms and yearly checkups but other than that I was on my own.  Yes, in many ways we are always “on our
own” as we go through cancer but for me, being released, while a reason
for celebration, was also very scary.  I
began looking for those things that might help me feel supported, educated and
uplifted.

As a long time
yoga practitioner, I turned to the yoga world to see what might be out
there.  It was in 2000 that I made my
first trip to Kripalu Yoga Center in The Berkshires of Massachusetts.  It was there that I had the thought about
creating a yoga retreat for breast cancer survivors.  I envisioned several days at the beach,
yogaing, resting, swimming, talking, and breathing!  In 2005 the first Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat
for women breast cancer survivors became a reality.   My jump down the rabbit hole had taken me to
one of the most amazing, fulfilling adventures of my life.

As of this writing
here in 2012, a few hundred women have experienced all the things I envisioned
and so much more than I ever imagined. 
This retreat has been Spirit Driven and Divinely Blessed since its
inception.  Have you ever been involved
in something like this, something that takes on a life of its own, something
that comes together and blossoms with a miraculous aura?

I have never
approached an individual or an organization that has not generously agreed to
help us in whatever way they could.  The
first person to say yes was Rhonda Bailey, a yoga instructor and friend.  She set the standard for everyone else.  After that, with the support of The Duke
Cancer Patient Support program, we were ready to go.  Our teachers generously volunteer their time and
talent.  Our friends and family come
forward every year to help defray the costs and to provide scholarships for
those who are unable to pay. One woman took it upon herself to buy cushy beach
towels for everyone.  We had homemade
biscotti and pound cake.  A local
ice-cream shop donated sundaes for everyone and one of our committee members
made the supreme effort to go taste several of the flavors beforehand.  Every year we raise enough money with the
efforts of my husband, Sandy, to help pay for anyone who wants to come on
scholarship.  It’s phenomenal how it all
comes together and it’s obvious to all of us there that the success of this
event is beyond anything most of us have ever experienced.  It has to have the hand of God in it.


Who comes to a retreat
like this?  Well, obviously, women who
have experienced breast cancer. 
(Although we have many people who want to come but don’t want to qualify
to come.) But, really what type of individual attends an event like this?  I am here to tell you, they are amazing
individuals.  They come from all over the
country.  Most of the women have heard
something about what goes on but it really is an unknown entity.  Many have never practiced yoga; many come
without knowing anyone else.  Some are in
the middle of treatment others have been out of treatment for years.  They don’t know what the accommodations are
like, who their roommate may be or what the food is like but they come
anyway.  They are the type of person who
isn’t afraid to jump down the rabbit hole. 
They are amazing, brave, adventurous human beings and when we gather we
get to share the adventure.
The focus of the
retreat, believe it or not, is not breast cancer.  Yes, we all have that in common and yes, the
subject comes up and people share experiences and more often than not, they
share what worked for them.  The focus of
the retreat is living life to the fullest. 
Each year, as in most yoga practices, we take an intention.  The first year the intention was that “it was
a joyful experience for Everyone involved.” 
One year we focused on an “Open Heart.” 
We also took the intention to “Stay in the Moment.”  In 2008, our intention was to “Marvel in the
Mystery.”

The retreat
provides multiple healing modalities. 
Besides yoga, which in itself is multi-dimensional; there’s the ocean,
art-therapy, massage therapy, silent walks and Yoga Dance.  Some people relate to some and not to other
modalities.  Other people need a little bit
of all of them but either way they all lead to an increased sense of well-being
and support. 

We begin and end
the retreat with a Sharing Circle.  I’m
sure there are many such rituals involved with other gatherings but I was
introduced to this ritual at Kripalu. 
There are many guidelines.  The
first, of course, is confidentiality.  We
go on to talk about using the “I” word, not the community “we.”  Only one person is allowed to speak at a time
and it’s highly recommended that everyone actively listen and not plan what
they might want to say.  In between each
speaker we take a collective in breath and sigh it out.  We imagine clearing the psychic white board
in the middle of the circle.  There are
other suggestions but these are the main ones. 
What happens during the circles? What happens during the four days?  Miracles occur.

Miracles, you say? 
What is miraculous about ice-cream and beach towels and homemade
goodies?  Well, for one thing they simply
appear, like the manna in the dessert. 
We never ask for these treasures. 
But, what is really miraculous is what happens to the mind, body and
spirit of each of the ladies and our one man (He’s the breast cancer counselor
for the DCPSP.)  by the end of the four
days.  A light comes on in each person.  There has been healing; there’s been a
renewed sense of hope.  The women have
found camaraderie and acceptance.  We
have laughed, cried, played, swam, created, danced and done yoga.  We have found power, the power in each of us
and as a group.  The event is laced with
miracles especially the overwhelming feeling of love that permeates each person
including me, as the retreat comes to a close.
 

If you’re interested in attending, you can look us up on
PinkRibbonYoga.org.

Imaginary Conversations

Affirmation:  I
release myself from imaginary conversations and fully trust in God’s loving
care.

This affirmation was created during a visit to our mountain
retreat place.  It’s a small two bedroom
condo in the North Carolina mountains, in a community called Hound Ears.  It’s called that because the two mountains it
lies between look like doggie ears, or so I am told.  The condo looks out over the hills, a few
ponds and a pristine golf course.  I
journal in the morning sitting on the porch. 
Many mornings I watch the mist rising from the hills as the sun begins
its ascent.  One morning there was a
heron flying through the mist.  I put up
a couple of potted plants containing Petunias so that there is food for the
humming bird who visits.  We have one
dear friend who calls it Shangri-La. 
Shangri-La being a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost
Horizon
by British author James Hilton. Hilton
describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley. Shangri-La has become
synonymous with any earthly paradise but particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia — a permanently happy land,
isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people
who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal
lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. (www.wikipedia.org)  Hound Ears is our Shangri-La and if you saw
the number of healthy, hearty octogenarians and nonagenarians who reside here,
you might think so too.

When I am in Hound Ears, I never want to leave but unlike many of
the residents who are retired and can come for six months, we are lucky if we
get to stay for a few weeks.  Most years
we have a lot of family and friends come visit and we enjoy many moments of
sharing time and making memories.  Then,
towards the end of our vacation we have some quiet time.  It’s a nice balance and gives me time to
reflect, write and pray. As the time to leave gets closer and closer, I have to
use all my tools to help me to not go home “early.”  I have to do all in my power to stay in the
moment and to relish the present so that I don’t leave this healing place
before the actual time.  Truly, it is a
mediation, a moment to moment meditation. 
As soon as I let go, my thoughts jump to home.  Home, some years, can mean I am returning to
what are for me, some challenging situations. 

I’ve been guilty of having many imaginary conversations with many
people.  Why do I say guilty?  Well, I am usually thinking about what I can
say, or what I would say or what I should have said or how about, what I could
have said!  What words would have been
more effective.  Will I have the right
words?  Are there any words?  Do I have the power to help someone else “see
the light” or the power to make someone else go from being sad and anxious to
happy and calm?  Can I say anything to
improve and lighten another person’s load? 
Have you ever been here?  Have you
ever had a continuous, one way conversation over and over?  The essence of suffering is wanting things to
be different than they are and that’s what I’m doing.  I am creating my own suffering  because I want to change the way another is
perceiving something.  Certainly, there are
communication tools that can sometimes achieve this desired result but it can’t
happen if I only have the conversation in my mind.  Writing, journaling helps me but this kind of
self-talk usually leads me to a very unsettled feeling.  How can it not?  There is no resolution.  It never really ends. It’s like a recording
on repeat.  But, it serves no purpose,
does it?  It takes one away from the
moment.  It takes me into my imagination
and unless I choose to paint it, sculpt it or as now, write about it, it has no
closure. 

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test all of us fall
either into the “introvert” or “extrovert” category.  There is a range in each section so one’s
score can be high or low on the scale. 
What the authors of this test are referring to when they use the words
introvert and extrovert are not how you relate to people but more, how you get
your energy.  An extreme introvert might
need to be alone most of the time while an extreme extrovert might need to be
out with people all the time.  The
category also refers to how one may communicate.  One type of personality says exactly what
they’re thinking when they’re thinking it. 
The other personality type ruminates on what they want to say, sometimes
over and over depending on the degree of introversion before they say
anything.  Just ask yourself if you have
to “practice” what you want to say before you make a phone call, especially a
call involving something that requires a resolution.  Your answer will give you some indication of
whether you’re an “E” or an “I.”  I am a weak
“I.”  I practice and depending on the
situation, I can find myself practicing way too much.

Mind you, I’m not practicing for the best.  I am usually practicing for what I think will
be an uncomfortable conversation.  One of
my other affirmations is “The best is yet to come.” but when I’m facing some
potential confrontation, it’s really hard for me to call that one into
existence. 

When I began creating the affirmation about “imaginary
conversations”, I found myself using the phrase “obsessive thoughts.”  I release myself from “obsessive
thoughts.”  But, the longer I worked on
it, the more I realized it was more than that, it was the whole motion picture
I was developing or perhaps even a mini-series. 
Wow, I was really good at writing this story.  I found that what I really wanted to
accomplish was to stop writing fiction, at least with regard to the issues I
was facing when I would return home.  I
began writing, “I release myself from imaginary conversations and fully trust
in God’s loving care.”  I know I am much
better off letting God write the story. 

After several days of writing the affirmation in my morning
pages, I began to feel my body relax. 
All the tension would seep away. 
What else did my new thought call to me? 
Mornings of journaling as I watch the mist rise from the hills, joy from
the presence of the hummingbird as it flit around my planters and an invitation
to share my yoga practice with a friend who’s looking for some calming
tools.  As I prepared for the session, I
renewed several of my own peace giving practices; daily breathing rituals,
guided mediations, gratitude and release sun salutations and regular deep
breaths. 

My new affirmation brought peace, contentment and a sated
feeling.  This is a perfect moment.  I am blessed and resting in God’s loving
care.  As the pastor at St. Bernadette’s
in Linville, NC said in his homily, “People, we have it all.  We want for nothing.”  That’s it. 
I want for nothing, that is my meditation, at least for this moment and
truly, isn’t that all we have?

Living a Compassionate Life

Affirmation: I
live a Christ centered life of love, peace, hope, gratitude and compassion.

One of the most
compassionate people I know is my mother-in-law, Yolanda. She’s always been one
of my heroines and an amazing role model. 
I have never heard her criticize anyone. 
And, I’ve known her now for well over 43 years. 

Compassion is
defined as co-suffering but that’s not enough. 
For one to be truly compassionate you must try to do something to
alleviate another’s suffering.

One night we were
watching the TV show The Amazing Race.  I
was visiting Yolanda to help her prepare for her move to Savannah.  (She had lived in the same house for over 56
years and now, at the age of 90 she was moving to an independent living facility
in Georgia.  This was her choice.  She made the decision herself.  I keep hoping that when and if, I’m 90 I’ll
get to choose some adventure on which I want to embark and not have the
adventure chosen for me.)  This episode
of The Amazing Race had a young unmarried couple who were racing from country
to country.  They were doing fairly well
and were leading the race when this episode began.  When the episode ended they were in last
place.  They lost because one of the
challenges was to go down a huge water slide through some sharks and into a
pool.  The young woman of the team was
terrified of heights and sharks.  With
two of her greatest fears combined, she chose not to finish the race.  I was amazed and felt very impatient.  “For heaven’s sake” I thought,
“just get on the slide and get it over with!” Really, it would have
been over in 3 minutes.  And, then there
was Yolanda, “Oh, the poor thing! 
What are they doing?  Why don’t
they just let her walk down?  I can’t
stand to see her suffering so much.” I think if Yolanda had been there,
she would have jumped on that slide and gone down it in place of the young
woman, even though she too is afraid of water. 
Me?  I’m sad to tell you I would
have suggested to her partner to just pick her up, put her on his lap and go
for it.  It really was a wonderful lesson
for me to sit there and share this experience with my mother-in-law.  I don’t think I would have seen it any
differently if I hadn’t been exposed to her point of view.  Then, the final lesson came when the emcee
interviewed them and asked her boyfriend how he felt about the whole
episode.  I thought, “Here it
comes!  He’s going to be so angry!”
instead, he was as compassionate about it as Yolanda had been. 

In Al-Anon, one
of the suggestions given is to learn to take care of yourself.  It’s not an easy concept, especially for
someone who has been caring for a loved one with an addiction.  A lot of the time, many people who attend
Al-Anon are enablers.  One of their chief
skills is taking care of others, sometimes with total disregard for
themselves.  In the book, The Courage
to Change, One Day at a Time,
one of the readings tells a story about a
woman who had recently become an Al-Anon member.  Every night when she went to bed, she found
her drunken husband fallen out of bed and lying on the floor.  She’d help him back in bed, cover him up and
then finally get to go to bed too.  After
her Al-Anon session, she decided she’d just step over him and go straight to
bed. When she shared her new approach at a meeting, they gently told her she
had gone to the other extreme. So, the next night she used a different
approach.  She gently placed a blanket on
him, stepped over him and went to bed. 
She managed to find a place where she could both be compassionate and
take care of herself.

My friend works
out with a trainer.  I knew this personal
trainer when he was having terrible back pain and when I saw him again I asked
him how his back was doing.  He said it was
fine.  Then he told me he was pleased
he’d had the bad back experience because it made him a better trainer.  It made him more compassionate.

I know many
people take tragic experiences and use them to better the lives of others.  There is story after story of people who
chose to use their tragedy as a stepping stone not only for their own recovery
but for anyone else who is looking for help with the same type of
situation.  I am sure it wouldn’t take
much for you to recall some of the more well known examples.  How about the Amber Alert program?  I regularly see the signs for missing
children on the freeways.

Twenty five years
ago Rachel and Saul Schanberg lost their young daughter Linda to cancer.  Before Linda died she asked her mom to make a
difference in the Duke Cancer Center.  She
asked her to help people feel cared for and not just cared about.  Rachel began the Duke Cancer Patient Support
Program with herself and four volunteers in an office the size of a
closet.  Today her efforts have created a
program world renown for their care of cancer patients and their loved
ones.  It’s all free.  Most hospitals wouldn’t consider supporting a
program that doesn’t bring in any revenue but because of Rachel’s passion and
compassion, we have over 300 volunteers and the most amazing services you can
imagine.  The impact the program has made
on the new Duke Cancer Center can be seen in the center’s warm, inviting
atmosphere.

Our challenging
life experiences offer us two choices. 
We can become more caring, gentle and compassionate or we can become
bitter, hard and reclusive.  My intention
to be a more compassionate person, to be more Yolanda like, is a quality I
always want to be developing.  Recently,
I read a book to help me better understand and care for an aging parent.  The main lesson in the book encourages the
reader, the caretaker, to try to see life as their parent may see it.  When they rephrased some of the concerns of
the parent using language based on the author’s years of experienced, it
brought me a greater understanding of that which my parent is concerned.  And, with understanding I felt a deeper sense
of compassion. 

I am an ardent
believer in the power of prayer.  I don’t
know how it works but I believe it does. 
I keep a list in the front of my journal of all the people for whom I am
currently praying.  I always add “And,
especially for those who most need Your mercy.” 
Since practicing compassion requires one to “do” something along with
experiencing feelings of empathy, I can pray. 
If there is no other way for me to bring help and solace to those I am
concerned about, it gives me great comfort to know I can offer them up in
prayer and to believe that God is blessing them in ways beyond my
comprehension.  Truly, that’s how I want
to see myself; that’s the person I want to be. 
If when I die my obituary refers to me as compassionate, I will rest
with the satisfaction of a life well lived.