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Nuturing the Self

Affirmation:  I recognize
it’s important to take time to nurture myself.
Mother’s Day is tomorrow. 
It’s a day probably created by Hallmark cards but no matter, most honor
it as if it were a national or religious holiday.  Everyone has a mother.  If we are blessed she’s a woman who has
nurtured us and guided us towards a life of love and generosity and
compassion.  She has helped shape us,
both intentionally and unintentionally, in a way that has empowered us to lead
lives of value and worth; lives that make a positive difference in the world or
at least in our world.
I was recently invited by Alice Lutz of Triangle Family Services
(www.tfsnc.org)
to present a self-care workshop for the staff. 
This organization is seventy seven years old.  It is open seven days a week and serves over
five thousand people every year.  The staff
is composed of men and women who assist those who are experiencing family
violence, financial crisis and mental health issues.  I was honored to be invited. I am in awe of
the work the staff does.  They are in the
trenches serving the neediest of our area. 
I know it’s both rewarding and draining. 
Because of my experience with Hospice of Wake County and with the Duke
Cancer Patient Support Program, I know firsthand that helping people who are in
crisis is both gratifying and overwhelming. 
My goal, therefore, was to nurture the nurturers.  I designed an hour of respite.  From the feedback I received it appears to have
been well received.
With the help of Blaire Schultz and Monica Shelton, the women who
own and operate the Bodhi Tree Holistic Bodywork and Skincare Center (bodhitreeholistics.com),
we presented each staff member with a small vial of lavender oil.  Lavender is known for its stress and anxiety
reducing effect.  We began the hour by
placing a tiny bit of oil in the palm of our hands and rubbing them together to
create warmth and then gently placing our palms over our eyes and our
noses.  I invited everyone to sit
comfortably, close their eyes and to begin focusing on their breath in order to
gather their energy into the room and then into their bodies.  After several minutes of breathing, we gently
opened our eyes and did one consensual OHM, focusing on the “mmmm”
sound at the end.  It vibrates through
the body and releases stress. The energy in the room had already become calmer
and we had only been there for less than ten minutes.  We went onto discuss the “tools”
different individuals used to care for themselves.  There were a wide range of suggestions from
listening to music to cooking.  My hope
was that each person would go home with one new way to nurture themselves.  We ended the session with a guided mediation
CD and a final OHM. One hour of luxury in the middle of the work day, perhaps I
even gave some of the staff the opportunity to take a much needed cat-nap.  Everyone was appreciative and as they left
they moved a little slower, a little more deliberately than when they had
arrived. 
When the airline attendant demonstrates the use of oxygen in case
of an emergency, the instruction is always to place the oxygen over your mouth
and nose and then to help any child who is with you.  It’s a wonderful analogy for what’s needed in
order to care for another; we must find a way to care for ourselves first.  If we spend all our energy taking care of
others and never take the time to take care of us, we will be left without
enough oxygen to live.  Life is busy.  Most people like to be busy.  They like to feel they are being productive
and in order to produce, one must work. 
That’s good but we must also find some time and some tools that soothe
us.  They are different for different
people and for some, especially working mothers, they need to claim that time
and space or the responsibilities of their lives will overwhelm them and let’s
face it, no one benefits from a grumpy, overwhelmed mother, boss, spouse,
coworker or human being. 
I want to offer you a few simple suggestions to nurture
yourself.  Sure there are things like
retreats, yoga classes, massages, facials and dinners out but all those are
time consuming and costly.  If you’re
able to take advantage of those type of self-care activities, good.  Go for it! 
There are, however, other things of which one can take advantage, small
easy steps that soothe.  
*Take a few minutes between activities to breathe, perhaps you
can even get in a couple of deep breaths and a small prayer. 
*Let your time in the car be quiet time.  Don’t turn on the radio or talk on the
phone.  North Carolina in the spring is
absolutely breathtaking.  When I drive
without distraction, I can fully embrace the beauty of my surroundings.  I can also use that time to reconnect to the
Divine, adding a few prayers to my drive makes me calmer and less
frenetic. 
*I have a small vile of lavender in my purse.  Whenever I can I open it and let the aroma
sooth me. 
*Put some flowers or a pretty plant in your space.  There’s something about the softness of a
flower that can help me relax. 
*Take a walk.  It’s free
and it doesn’t have to be long. Sometimes just the intention of getting outside
for a short time can re-energize you. 
*Stretch.  It doesn’t
matter if you do it sitting or standing. 
Gently move your neck from side to side, shrug and release your
shoulders, make circles with your hips, flex your hands and feet.  Mini yoga, remember to breathe with the
movement. 
*Eat mindfully.  Say
grace.  There’s power in blessing the
food you’re about to put into your body. Don’t read, don’t watch TV, don’t do
work, take time to savor the food and imagine how it is helping fuel your body
for whatever it is you will need to do going forward.
    
Take some time and think about those small steps you can take
that will soothe your body and fill your heart. For all the mothers out there
and for all those who “mother” whomever needs caring, may you have a
blessed day filled with love and care both from those you care for and
especially, from yourself.

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

Affirmation: When I am open to knowledge and guidance, it comes
to me.
 
In the TV mystery series Murder She Wrote starring Angela
Landsbury, Jessica Fletcher was renowned for her sleuthing abilities.  The series ran for twelve seasons and in each
episode, Jessica was somehow involved in solving a very mysterious murder.  She did this because of her remarkable
ability to notice and remember all the little details that led up to the
crime.  I was in awe of her ability.  Certainly, she’s not the only sleuth to have
amazing powers of observation.  In my
opinion the most famous of all characters with this ability is Sherlock.  Yes, Sherlock Holmes.  I’ve always loved the works written about him
and Doctor Watson.  I mustn’t be the only
one considering there never seems to be a time when there isn’t some sort of
series or new movie about the famous British detective. 
How are your powers of observation?  I decided after watching Murder She Wrote
that I would not become a sleuth.  I
don’t pay close attention to the daily minutiae that occurs in my life.  I have a tendency to see the bigger picture.
Sometimes I think it’s simply because I’m going too fast.  Have you noticed how different a street or a
neighborhood appears when you walk through it versus when you ride through
it? 
Recently I was with a friend at a restaurant that we’ve been
going to for over thirty years.  She
turned to me and pointed out a new logo they had designed.  It was hung on one of the walls and
practically covered half the wall. 
“Wow,” she exclaimed, “that is beautiful.  I wonder when they created that?” she questioned.  “At least twenty five years ago,” I
replied. She didn’t believe me but when we checked with the owner, we found out
it had been there for well over twenty years. 
She had just never noticed it before. 
She hadn’t been ready to see it until this visit. 
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear,” is
a saying some attribute to the Buddha even though that’s not true but whoever
said it presents us with an interesting concept.  When we are ready and only when we are ready
will we learn what we need to learn.  How
many times have you heard someone state that they wish they had known about
something before now?  They might have
been given the information many times but they didn’t hear it.  They couldn’t hear it until it was the right
time. 
Recently my study group was presented with the question,
“What do you have the most difficulty remembering?” I have a lot of
difficulty remembering the dates of significant events, like when my children
graduated or when they married.  I have
to have it written down to know the right answer.  I am very envious of people who can recall
that information without hesitation.  I’d
love to be someone who remembered everything I ever learned.  My husband, Sandy, is amazing when it comes
to recalling information.  He can still
remember most of the science he studied in pharmacy school.  He remembers dates and historical facts to
name just some of his recall.  Not
me!  Thank heavens for Google! I don’t,
however, get upset with myself when I fail to recall that which I am trying to
uncover from the recesses of my brain.  I
am aware, however, that I am aging and sometimes that presents physical
challenges to the brain.  I desperately
hope that’s not the reason I’m not recalling the information I’m seeking.  With that caveat in mind, I have learned that
what is really important to me and that which I need to know, I usually do.
I took a private yoga class once because my hip was very sore and
I needed some extra guidance.  I was
concerned at the end of the session that I hadn’t written everything down about
which I was told.  When I voiced my
concern to the teacher, she told me not to be concerned, I would remember that
which I needed to remember and it was true. 
The rest of the stuff just drifted away. 
When I need that information, I am sure it will come to me.  It usually does. 
This is about more than just our visual intake.  I have discovered that answers to many of my
life’s challenges arrive just when I need them most.  I don’t think I’d receive them if I weren’t
actively looking.  I can’t get the answer
if I’m not willing to open the book, to check on the computer or to believe
that the solution or even better, the miracle is out there somewhere and I need
to wait with open arms the “teacher” for that situation. 
Back to being a world class sleuth.  I had an appointment with someone I visit
once a week.  One week recently I noticed
some delightful feathers she had strung along the mantle.  They were all different shades of blue and
fluttered in the light breeze of the room. 
“When did you put those up? I asked.  You probably guessed the answer, ‚ÄúSeveral
weeks ago.”  Once again I was
grateful I didn’t need to make my living by being intensely aware of my
surroundings.  I am gentle with myself.  I remind myself that it’s OK not to be able
to remember everything.  If I remain open
that which I need will come to me, either through a deliberate effort or
through Divine intervention.  I remind
myself to relax, to breathe and to embrace the concept that all is exactly as
it’s supposed to be at this very moment and that might include not having the
answer to all of my questions.

Reflections

Affirmation: I choose to see myself as beautiful.
What is your reaction when you look in the mirror?  Do you look? 
I know some people who avoid mirrors at all costs and I know others who
can’t seem to turn away when they see their image.  What if I told you that you can make a
conscious decision about how you perceive your image? 
As I write this it’s Spring. 
North Carolina looks like the Garden of Eden or a fairyland right
now.  Everything is in bloom.  The Dogwoods are breathtaking.  The flowering pear, cherry and apple trees
are awesome.  The Azaleas, pink, white
and rose colored have just gone into full bloom and all the bulbs, daffodils,
crocuses and tulips to name a few are up and showing off.  Along with all this beauty comes the natural
instinct of the birds and the bees.  We
have a flock of Robins living in our wooded area and one of them has gone
insane.  She, we believe, is protecting
her nest.  She’s doing this by slamming
her beak and her body into any of our windows that she perceives harbor an
enemy.  It’s been going on for
weeks.  All day long, thwack, thwack,
thwack
. There isn’t a solution other than to wait it out.  I know, I’ve researched it and tried half a
dozen suggestions.  None of them
work.  Her bird brain defense towards her
reflection makes me wonder how often my perception is so skewed that I too see
what isn’t the truth.
Did you hear about the Dove beauty patch?  It’s an ad on You Tube.  Normally I skip the ads but this one caught
my attention right away.  I was
intrigued.  It showed a psychiatrist
interviewing several young women and applying the Dove beauty patch to their
upper arms and explaining to them how to use it over the next week or so.  The ladies videoed their reactions and the
first few days they reported no significant changes but by the end of the trial
period, they all reported an increased sense of well-being.  They felt more beautiful.  The psychiatrist then showed them the secret
ingredient in the patch.  Can you guess
what it was?  Nothing.  It was empty. 
They felt better because they believed they were going to feel
better.  Several of them began to
cry.  They were actually pleased that
their thoughts and not some random drug had been the key ingredient in their
new sense of beauty. 
One of my dear friends told me that as she aged she was startled
to see her mother every morning looking back at her from her bathroom
mirror.  Then one morning she woke up to
find her grandmother looking back at her. 
She decided right then and there to put an end to that reflection.  She did not go get a face lift, Botox or any
fillers.  She did something a lot cheaper
and probably much more empowering.  She
decided to greet her daily image with the phrase “Hello beautiful.”  She said at first it was hard to say but
after a while she realized it was causing her to smile and she found it easier
and easier, until she actually began to believe it.  When she writes me a note she always begins
it with, “Hello beautiful.”  It
makes me smile too.
“Beauty is only skin deep” “Don’t judge a book by
its cover” and, ” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” are some
of the adages about our outside appearance. 
But, the truth is most of us live in a society that has a standard for
attractiveness and few of us are able to completely disregard how we are viewed.  The Twilight Zone with Rod Sterling had a
show that revolved around a society that forced every young woman to choose a
physical model from a menu of womanly styles when they reached the end of their
teenage years.  One young woman refused.  She didn’t want to look like everyone
else.  She liked herself the way she was
but this was not an option.  She was
forced to undergo the procedure.  Her
parents chose from the menu for her and the powers that be took her away for
the process.  When the last scene is
shown we see this Barbie like woman looking in the mirror and being very
pleased with what she sees.  Yes, it was
extremely disturbing but like so much science fiction, it is becoming a present
day reality. I’m not against getting some “help” if that’s what
someone needs to do to feel better.  As a
cancer survivor I know the importance of looking good in order to feel
good.  My friend Greta Schiffman has
presented the Look Better, Feel Better program to hundreds of women cancer
survivors.  The Duke Cancer Patient
Support Program provides wigs, turbans and prosthetics for cancer
patients.  There are times in our lives
when we need to take a few extra steps to enhance our sense of well-being and
that’s just fine.  
The lesson learned from the Dove beauty patch is fairly obvious;
we can feel better about ourselves if we think differently. If we think we are
beautiful we will feel more beautiful. 
I’m not talking about a narcissistic obsession with ourselves.  I’m talking about a healthy view and
appreciation for who we are and how we look, regardless of another’s
opinion.  We can decide to feel better by
changing the way we think, by changing what we think.  We aren’t limited to our outer appearance
either.  How we choose and shape our
thoughts affects every aspect of our lives. 
It affects our relationships, our work, our health and our spirit.  We get to choose what we want to focus on and
what we want to believe about ourselves and the world and with those choices,
we determine the quality and maybe even the quantity of our lives.  What’s your choice?   Do you want to look in the mirror and see
ugly and sad or like my dear friend, do you want to see happy and beautiful or
perhaps, handsome? Give it a try, “Hello Beautiful!” or “Hi
Handsome!”  Maybe you can avoid ever
becoming a crazy Robin and banging your head into something that won’t ever
make you feel better and only makes you feel worse.

A Place for Mystery

Affirmation: I let Mystery have a place in me.
Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air was interviewing Bart Ehrman, a
professor of religious studies at UNC, Chapel Hill.  He had just written another book.  This one is called How Jesus Became God.  I had a feeling I knew where this interview
was going but I love to learn about anything to do with religion, any religion
and I love talk radio, so I stayed tuned in.
NPR had this introduction on their web site, “When Bart
Ehrman was a young Evangelical Christian, he wanted to know how God became a
man, but now, as an agnostic and historian of early Christianity, he wants to
know how a man became God.
When and why did Jesus’ followers start saying “Jesus as
God” and what did they mean by that? His new book is called How Jesus
Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.
‘In this book I actually do not take a stand on either the
question of whether Jesus was God, or whether he was actually raised from the
dead,” Ehrman tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I leave open both
questions because those are theological questions based on religious beliefs
and I’m writing the book as a historian.'”
I gave up doubt for this year’s Lent this Easter Season.  For me, it’s easy to doubt.  It seems to me that our egos are so involved
in our identity that most of us believe we need to be able to understand
everything.  If we can’t understand it,
it must not be true.  But, over the years
I’ve discovered I actually understand very little.  There is so much that is simply unknown.  I could list all the questions I have about
life and the Universe but I’m sure that you have many of your own.  The simple question about what happens to us
after we die is one very prominent unknown. 
One of life’s greatest mysteries. 
I was surprised by my reaction to Professor Ehrman’s interview.  I know I have only that segment on which to
base my response to his theories but his words left me feeling very sad. 
I did listen carefully. 
Certainly his research was very factual.  There didn’t seem to be much one could
dispute.  He had gathered his facts very
carefully.  His research confirmed his
beliefs.  Like the web site stated, he
had gone from being an Evangelical Christian to an atheist. It appears the New
Testament gospel stories about what immediately took place after Jesus died is
fictitious.  Oh yes, Jesus was tortured,
humiliated and crucified but there was no way he was then taken down from the
cross after his death, placed in a tomb and rose three days later.  According to Roman tradition, that’s just not
how things were done back then.  Back
then?  As far as I know that’s not how
things are done now.  Rising from the
dead sure isn’t the norm even in today’s world. 
Father Alapati of St. Michael’s Catholic Church here in Cary
recently told a joke as part of his homily. 
It appears a gentleman rose one morning to find his obituary in the
paper.  He was shocked and immediately
called his friend and said, “Did you see my obituary in today’s
paper?” His friend responded, “Yes, but where are you calling from
heaven or hell?” 
Facts supporting the Resurrection would be lovely.  The Apostle Thomas seemed to feel the same
way.  “But he said unto them, Except
I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the
print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
(John 20: 25) I’ve always been fascinated by the Apostles.  So afraid, so timid, so uneducated hiding
away in a room somewhere, waiting for those angry crowds to come and pull them
off to the same torture and death their leader just endured.  I can feel the fear.  I can almost taste it.  We’ve seen what angry crowds do.  We’re watching it now in all parts of the
world.  I would be terrified.  What happened to change them so?  What facts can be gathered to explain why they
would leave that room and go out into the crowds and begin to preach the Good
News?  These men (and let’s hope a woman
or two) left their safe space and changed the world forever.  How does one explain that?  It’s a mystery.
My fellow yoga teacher, friend and mentor, Nancy Hannah, shared
with me a saying with which her mother, Bunny Stone, would guide her.  “Let mystery have its place In
you.”  According to Nancy, her mom
was a remarkable woman who made amazing in-roads and created life changing
programs here in North Carolina.  In
Rachel Remen’s The Will to Live and Other Mysteries she writes about the
fact that our western culture is more a culture of mastery than mystery but
life is more about mystery than mastery. Most of us, however, refuse to
recognize the mystery that permeates our lives. 
We need to understand all things because by understanding we believe we
are in control.  It’s a fallacy.  After controlling our thought process, there
is very little else of which we are in control. 
How our egos interfere in the really important values of our
lives: peace, hope, love, gratitude, compassion and yes, faith.  What facts are available to prove these
qualities exist?  Can we ask to place our
hands into them, our fingers?  Here is
where faith must triumph over facts. 
Faith, trust on steroids, is believing in something so completely
irrational because one has let go of their ego. 
The test here is to decide to believe and to let God work within and
through us.  This is when we are called
upon to let mystery have its place in us. 
I find comfort in my faith.  I
find peace.  I like resting in the
mystery and not trying to figure it all out. 
We might not be able to hold the proof in our hands but if we choose, we
can hold it in our hearts.