Jean Anne Costa
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Labeling

Affirmation:   I am lovable, I am worthy, I do well.
I recently heard a radio broadcast that talked about a study to help students improve their grades.  They had some students put the letter “A” on the top of their test paper before they began the test.  They had others put an “F.”  What do you think happened?  You probably guessed it right.  The students with the “A” did better than they even expected; the students with the “F” did worse than they expected.  I’m not saying we don’t have to make an effort to do well.  I don’t believe that, but I do believe we can improve our chances of success by how we visualize the results. 
Have you read about the study with water?  Yes, water.  It was part of the movie, What the Bleep.  Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese scientist took jars of water and wrote words on the jars.   And, then he took  pictures of the frozen crystals of the water both before labeling and after.  Did you guess what happened?  The jar marked with “You make me sick” was muddy and ugly.  The jar marked “love and gratitude” was bright and clear and shiny. 
So, I practice labeling my jar, me.  What happens when I label myself?  I like to think, I am creating within me, the same effect that the words had on the water or on the student who put the “A” on the test paper. 
Have you heard the phrase, “Act the way you want to be and soon you’ll be the way you act?”  How do you think you get there?  It has to begin with our thought process.  We must believe in ourselves.  We must!  It all begins with how we think.  World peace depends on me.  It depends on how I see myself and how I then relate to the world.  If I can believe in myself, see myself as lovable, worthy and doing well, I will extend that love and kindness to all those whose lives touch mine and from there, blessings will be bestowed of which I know not, but I believe will make the world a gentler place.
What thoughts are you holding in your mind and heart today?  Let them be soft, kind, and centered on love and compassion. 

Crisis of Faith

Affirmation:  I freely forgive myself and others.
I am having a crisis of faith.  I’ve been fortunate enough to attend within the last month, two workshops revolving around mindfulness.  The first was a two day yoga workshop taught by a Buddhist monk.  The second was a day long silent sangha (community gathering) taught by an ordained minister in the tradition of Tich Nat Han.  Along with these two events, I have been immersed in my Catholic Lenten tradition.  The same themes keep coming up:  Love, Kindness, Compassion & Equanimity.   One of my affirmations is:  I live a Christ-centered life of love, peace, joy, gratitude and compassion.  I have been working on these themes for a long time but I have a question, something about which I am very confused.  At what point in a relationship are we supposed to take care of ourselves?  According to AA, that’s one of our first responsibilities but whenever it’s addressed in a spiritual context, it’s always about being forgiving and compassionate towards the other.  Throughout Lent and these workshops, I have been led to look at the things that people do that upset me and find in myself what is wrong with me and then to respond to them with loving kindness.  I am kind.  I do forgive.  I have worked hard in my life to not overreact to someone else’s issues but don’t you think there are times when we have a responsibility to remove ourselves from a relationship?  And, don’t you think no matter how gently you try to do that, the other person generally gets angry with you, feels hurt and abandoned?  And then what?  What is your responsibility then?  Are you supposed to continue to be a part of their lives at your own expense?  Let’s take an extreme case, how about someone who abuses you, either physically or verbally?  We can’t possibly be expected to stay in a relationship like that.  What does the Buddhist say then, or Tich Nat Han or Jesus?  When is this discussed?  I can tell you, it wasn’t discussed at the retreats I attended.  It never seems to be discussed.  It always seems to me like I am getting the same message:  Get along with everyone.  If you’re not getting along with someone, it is something within you that is askew.  Isn’t it possible to forgive others but not want them in your life?  How do the “spiritually evolved” balance self care and compassion?   If we are not compassionate with ourselves, how can we possibly be compassionate towards others?  Isn’t the greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself? ” Perhaps, the answer lies here in this writing.  Maybe it is a question of balance.  Finding that place in you where you can love another but recognize that in order to survive you need to love yourself, too. 

Why I Believe

Affirmation:   I know by meditating on Jesus throughout my day, I am in union with the Divine; miracles are created and without struggle my life will be transformed in ways beyond my imagination.  Thank you, Loving Jesus, for entering into my heart and strengthening our connection.
Faith, what does that look like to you?  My husband says it’s “trust on steroids.”  It has also been said, the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.  I am not certain.  I have listened to others talk about their faith and their relationship with Jesus.  I have heard the stories of the “born again.”  Many times I am filled with envy and always with quite a few questions.  My faith journey has been slow and steady, climbing up, slipping down, ever hopeful that I don’t slip below my last starting place.
I have not found it easy to be faith filled.  I have to work at it every day.  Why do I work on it?  Why is it important to me?  How will it benefit me?  Will it benefit me?
I love to read and hear the sermons about God’s bountiful love and care for us, His children.  There are many preachers who see God as this entity that only wants what’s best for us.  And, they lead me to believe that His best is also my best.  There is where the difficulty lies.  Oh, yes, I would like to believe that.  I would like to believe that anything I prayed for would come to pass but I know that’s not true.  We don’t get everything we ask for, sometimes it seems like someone isn’t’ even out there.  Thankfully, sometimes we get something even better than we could have imagined.
So, why do I want to live a life of faith?  Is it to ensure that my afterlife will be comfortable, not the fires of hell?  Well, even that aspect isn’t guaranteed, is it? 
Today, as I journaled about this question, I decided the reason I want to be faith filled, meditating on Jesus throughout the day is that I believe God is with me.  I believe God never leaves me, if I ask Him to be with me.  It is I who comes and goes.  I believe that through my faith, I will be able to deal with whatever life throws at me.  And, that whatever that is, through faith, it will be miraculously transformed into something good, maybe something great, something beyond my wildest imagination.
I need to believe.  I have chosen to believe.  I have chosen the theology and doctrine that I grew up with.  It’s not perfect but it enables me to live life with less fear and anxiety than I could without it.  For today, this is my faith.  This is why I believe.

Sailing

Affirmation:   Perhaps I cannot control the wind but I can adjust the sail.
While attending a family wedding, I was seated next to someone I had never met before.  For me, that’s always an opportunity to learn something new.  This woman was delightful to talk to and we quickly got on the subject of facing our fears, of doing those things that we find challenging.  She shared that she had many challenges in her life and she had several sayings that had helped her through them.  The first one she shared with me was from Eleanor Roosevelt:  “You gain strength and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the things you think you cannot do.”  It reminds me of Picasso, “If someone tells you, you are not a painter, paint.”  But, the one she found the most helpful was:  Perhaps I cannot control the wind but I can adjust the sail.  She said she framed it and put it where she would walk past it several times a day. 
She had created an affirmation and she had discovered a way to let it seep into her unconscious.  And, she indicated that it had worked for her.  She had faced her challenges and she was well on her way to a fuller, healthier life. 
When we create an affirmation, we are adjusting the sail.  We are adjusting our sail.  We are putting it up into the winds of life and steering it in a direction that will benefit us.   Life is full of breezes and storms.  Why not do everything in our power to set our course the way we want it to go?  Write out your affirmations.  Put them where you will see them and read them daily, or as she did, several times a day.  They will take shape and help you sail into a life full of meaning and blessings.

Lent

Affirmation:   I know by meditating on Jesus throughout my day, I am in union with the Divine, miracles are created and without struggle my life will be transformed in ways beyond my imagination.
We are now in the season of Lent.  If you grew up with this concept, you know the first question most people are asked about their Lenten practice is,  “What are you giving up for Lent?”  For years, I gave up nothing.  I just didn’t see the purpose.  And then, I heard a homily on the advantage of developing self discipline, self denial and it made perfect sense to me why I would want to develop such a skill and so, I gave up things I really enjoyed like chocolate and wine.  But, I also found myself thinking maybe I’d drop a few pounds as a side benefit.  After a while, that seemed quite self-serving.  I think I was missing the point.  Now, I understand while it is a season of fasting and abstinence, it’s also a time to rest in the Lord, to take time to listen to His voice, to the voices of my Angels and Guides.  It’s a time to share those things that are truly precious to me; my time, talent and treasure.  It’s a time to plant some seeds and to tend to them so they may produce the flowers and fruits of love and joy.  Now, that is something that takes quite a bit of guidance.  What do I need to do to create a bountiful harvest?
Several years ago, Father Emmanuel from Africa gave the Ash Wednesday homily.  He had a very eastern approach to Lent.  He said he had watched our American culture take on more, do more, struggle more, during Lent and he wondered if maybe we shouldn’t consider “doing less.”  Doing less!!  Oh my, now there was a self discipline I might find very difficult to embrace.  I like to “do.”  I like to be busy, busy, busy.  I like to think I’m making a difference in the world.  I’m contributing; I’m making the world a better place to live.  And now, I am being challenged to do less. 
Well, I have accepted the challenge but along with it, I have decided that with my “free” time, I will pray more; I will listen harder.  I have decided that with these three steps in practice, I will open myself to God’s grace and will move forward in whatever direction I am led.  I’ve decided not to be in charge but am hoping that by focusing on my faith, on my relationship with Christ, I will be led to that place where it’s not up to me how I use my time, treasure and talent, but up to God and that with the guidance of my Angels and Guides in those quiet moments, I will be used as their instrument. 
This is my Lenten practice. 

Charter of Compassion

Affirmation:  My seven step Charter of Compassion is: Pray, Embrace Silence, Meditate at least 20 minutes once a day, Listen to God’s Voice, Affirm what is Important to me, Release it into God’s Love and Love; non-judging, non-grasping, and unconditional.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a small workshop led by Sister Maureen (Sister Mo) of the Sisters of the Precious Blood.  She is a consummate retreat leader.  She has led many retreats and is a spiritual counselor.  I didn’t know Sister Mo before the retreat.  It was an honor and a pleasure to meet her and work with her.  We spent the weekend working on our Charter of Compassion.  There were several of us who attended and I must tell you, we each had a very different concept of what this charter should look like.  We weren’t instructed how to formulate it or given any outline for it.  We simply spent time talking about compassion.  What did it look like?  How did you know it when you saw or heard about it?  Who do you know that you consider compassionate?  Who have you heard about who you thought embodied the concept?  Do you think it’s important?  Why?  When?  Where?  Then, we were instructed to journal and write about whatever came up and see where it might lead us.
Some people wrote eloquently about compassion for the world and how they believed that could be accomplished; some wrote about their families, some about their volunteer work.  There was a myriad of concepts, all wonderful, all filled with hope.
The above affirmation was the charter I developed.  I decided I needed to begin with me and hoped it would be like throwing a pebble in the pond, only to see the ripple reach out to the very ends.  And, for me, it seemed these were the necessary steps.  I’ve kept it just the way I formulated during the retreat, except I had hoped I could meditate for 20 minutes, twice a day.  I did for a long time, and I may again but it became onerous as time went on, so I took compassion on myself and changed it to once a day.  I still have days when I don’t get to it but I am always aware of my intention.
What about you?  What would your Charter of Compassion look like?  Do you think it might be a worthwhile endeavor to develop one?  If you do, I hope you’ll share it here and with the world.

Creating

Affirmation:   (1) I embrace prospective travel with grace and ease.  (2) I travel joyfully.
I was preparing to leave on a trip, a fun trip.  I was going with my friends on a Caribbean cruise.  I can hear my 90 year old mother-in-law’s voice, “I hate, I hate to pack.  I hate it with a passion.”  I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit and to many fascinating places but to be honest, I think sometimes I like the idea of travel more than I actually like the experience. 
I was lucky enough to visit my friend/counselor/massage therapist before I was to leave.  She is a remarkable therapist and as she worked on me, we talked.  At one point she said it was obvious to her that I was preparing to travel.  She’s known me now for more than ten years and I see her as often as possible.  She said whenever I’m preparing for a trip; my body gets knotted up especially my stomach and my back.  I told her that my affirmation was, I travel joyfully.  She told me, that was good but it was more about how I had physically responded to travel in the past.  The response was etched into my cellular memory. 
Dr. John Sarno tells us that to change how our bodies response to our emotions we have to work on it until it seeps into not just our subconscious, but our unconscious.  It can happen, he says, it simply takes time.  It takes some of us longer than others.
The next morning as I journaled I created another affirmation to change how my unconscious responds to upcoming travel.  This is what my stream of consciousness produced:  I respond to travel viscerally and I have worked on the unconscious, although that seems to require a change.  I travel joyfully. I travel with ease. I relish the preparation and know the adventure will open my mind? I gracefully anticipate or embrace the whole experience?  I invite this new way of thinking into my tissues and my cells.  I must know, I must practice, I must work it out so that when travel looms my body responds with calm and with joy.  What words do I want to use for this affirmation?  I embrace prospective travel with grace and ease.  I think that will do it.  Let it be so. 

I am sharing this journal entry because this is the process I use to create my affirmations.  I listen for hints about what I need to re-frame in my mind to make my life richer, easier, less anxious.  Then, i write about it in my daily journal.  After I’ve examined my response, I look for the words, the sentences that resonate with me or perhaps the ones that don’t resonate but that would change something that isn’t working for me.  I write and write until the sentence comes alive.  Then, I transfer it to a few pieces of paper and I place them in places where I can’t miss them, e.g. the bathroom mirror, the car dashboard. 

It’s only been one day and I’m feeling calmer but I know this is not something that can be resolved overnight.  But, hopefully I will respond with grace and ease while anticipating my next trip or the one after that.

Worry & Anxiety

Affirmation:  (1) This is the day the Lord has made, let me rejoice and be glad in it.  (2) When I stay focused on the present, I am calmer and more peaceful.
The “big question” about how can a kind and merciful God allow such horrible suffering was addressed in my reading yesterday.  Actually, what was addressed was how I, personally, can remain free of fear and anxiety in the midst of worldwide chaos.  How even though I am aware of many of the troubles going on, how I can remain compassionate but not emotionally drained.  Sometimes, I do find myself being distraught over world events.  Do you?  I don’t need to list them, whenever you are reading this, you too will know of the major traumas that are taking place.  It’s impossible to not know.  We are bombarded with the news on a minute to minute basis.  It’s all LIVE for heaven’s sake.  For me, it can be overwhelming.
In Conversations with God, Father Francis Fernandez addresses the passage from Matt 6:34, Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. He goes on to say, “What matters is today.  Worry magnifies the difficulties and diminishes our ability to fulfill the duty of the present moment.  We can live only in the present.  Anxieties almost always arise because we fail to put all our effort into the here and now.”    We will be given the graces we need in order to contend with anything that crops up.  We will be victorious! 
So it seems to me that I need not ask such a difficult question.  I am not going to find the answer while still here on this earth but I can trust, fully trust that God loves me and wants what’s best for me and if I can practice staying present, staying in the moment, not letting my mind and my body be worn down by the cares of the world, of worries about what will happen, I will be stronger.  I will be calmer and more peaceful.  I will also focus more on the gifts of each day, instead of the worry about tomorrow. 

A Big Question

Affirmation:  Because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I let go of fear and anxiety and fully trust in His loving care for me.
On February 22, 2011 a group of four Americans were captured and killed off the coast of Somali.  They were sailing around the world since December 2004, on the yacht of Jean and Scott Adams.  The Quest was their home, this couple from California.  The two other Americans on board were Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, Washington.  When I first heard about Jean and Scott, they had been captured by pirates and were being held hostage.  They were then surrounded by the US navy and other helping vessels but, before they could be rescued, they were shot dead.
I was so inspired by their adventurous spirit when the story of their mission came to light.  I know there must be many people who have the same spirit and I just haven’t heard about all of them.  But, Jean and Scott were in their 70s and they were sailing to remote parts of the world to share the word of God.  Yes, I know a lot of people are missionaries and I am usually in awe of anyone who lives a life so far out of most people’s comfort zone.  But, they were not what I consider young and here they were so far from their support systems.  What would they have done if they got sick, or injured, or needed a dentist or as a friend commented to me, “if Jean needed a massage, or a facial?”  Obviously, their mindset was very different than most people.
But, if they died doing God’s work, as have so many martyrs, why should I believe that Jesus will take care of me?   I believe it because I want to believe it.  That’s what most of my affirmations revolve around, what I want to believe.  And yet, this event has shaken me.  I can’t seem to rectify a loving caring God with the horror that these people must have experienced in their last hours.  Yes, a loving caring God.  I know this question has been asked and examined many times around topics even more horrendous than what Jean and Scott endured.  Topics like:  war, famine, child abuse, cancer and other life threatening or debilitating diseases.  Perhaps, it’s not what happens to us, no matter how difficult; perhaps it’s how we perceive what happens to us?  Perhaps if we practice trusting God, we can go to our death with dignity and grace regardless of the circumstances, knowing that this life is temporary and because of our faith, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I will share in the glory of heaven.  My faith and trust in Him, will secure me life everlasting, with Him and all the Saints and Angels.  Boy, I hope so. 

Abundance

Affirmation:  (1) I live large.  I live in abundance.  (2) I attract financial prosperity
A few years ago, my husband and I went to visit friends in Florida.  It was a cold, brutal winter here in North Carolina and we were very ready for some warm weather.  We haven’t spent a great deal of time in Florida but from our time there, we had decided it was not the place we wanted to live.  We’d heard all the jokes about the retirees down there and to be honest, I think we began to believe the jokes reflected what life was really like there.  In fact, we had been told Florida was “God’s waiting room.”  And, we believed that too.  But, we weren’t  going there to live, just to visit and it was a gracious and lovely invitation and so we flew down. 
We have reached the point in our lives where we keep talking about “downsizing.”  In fact, we had recently sold our family home and moved into a smaller, although not small by many standards, house.  I was still reeling from the sale.  I loved our family home.  I loved all the memories and the light and it was so very very hard for me to give it up.  Now, the conversation always seemed to be about trimming down, cutting back.  I know, I know, it’s important to be fiscally responsible and sometimes we are simply faced with limited means and we do what we must but there’s a part of me that thinks once you begin to think small, begin to see things as limited, the universe responds by limiting.  I believe if we think large, think in terms of abundance, the universe responds with abundance.  I know nothing may really change except our perception but isn’t that what life actually is; how we perceive it?
 So, we headed off to “God’s waiting room” for our visit.  We arrived at our friend’s home and my first thought was, “They have not downsized.”  They are older than we and have faced some very difficult health challenges but their home was very large, with a pool.  It was well laid out, all on one floor and convenient for them and for having guests.  After a several days with them, watching their lifestyle and their zest, I realized, once again, I had misjudged.  I’m sure there are people in Florida who are close to death, just as there are anywhere, but the people I was visiting, weren’t waiting for anyone, especially not for the Angel of Death.  They had embraced life with a joy that was contagious.  They played hard, they volunteered hard, they had dozens of friends and associates that they kept connected to.  We were treated royally.  And, I knew that I wasn’t going to think in terms of my life coming to a close, of hoarding or limits.  And so, I decided to “live large, to live in abundance” and to believe that “I attract financial prosperity.”  And so far, so good!