Jean Anne Costa
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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.


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. 


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!

Loving Life

Affirmation:  I savor life.  I glory in life.  I love my life!

I love my life. 
I haven’t always felt that way but I wanted to feel that way and isn’t that what affirmations are for, to empower us to create our own reality?   I can remember very clearly the first time I heard someone say, “I love my job.”  I was a teacher in a rural middle school.  I already had one child and I’d been teaching for a few years.  The gentleman who spoke those words was the English chair of this very small school.  How much money could he have been making?  I knew that wasn’t the reason for his happiness.  I didn’t ask him why but over the years, I listened for others to say the same thing and I very rarely heard it.  How often have you heard such a declaration?  Then, one day many years later, I heard a woman say to me, “I love my life.”  She had shared with me in the past, how unhappy she was, so this time I asked her why.  She had made some very conscious choices and some very drastic changes.  She had moved to Italy, took up painting and dancing and fell in love with life.  Sure, if I moved to Italy or even went to visit for an extended period, like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love maybe I would feel that way too.  But, maybe I could simply come up with an affirmation, affirming how I felt about my life.  Could that possibly work?  Could I change the way I felt about my life by simply stating “I love my life?”  Could you?  Well, I sure had nothing to lose and so, I created the affirmation.  I added a few other lines to cement the emotion.  And, I claimed it, I wrote it, I read it every morning.  Then, it happened.  I realized, I did love my life.  I have surrounded myself with love, love of God, family, friends.  My life is really cool and I feel wonderful about it.  This is what I believed happened.  By the power of my affirmation, I slowly began to change.  I became more conscious about my decisions, about what I chose to do and not to do, about who I chose to be with and who I did not want in my life.  The affirmation worked just like affirmations do.  It slowly permeated every fiber of my life and without struggle I was off “living in Italy” painting, dancing and loving my life. 


Affirmation:  I freely forgive myself and others.
Recently, my book group read, The Girl in the Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold Catherine Taylor.  It’s the fictional story of the wife of Charles Dickens.  It created a great deal of conversation, which is one reason I am part of a book group.  In the story this woman went about healing herself of every shred of animosity she had with regard to those who had mistreated her in her life.  And, she was very poorly treated, even, some would say, abused.  Her husband disowned her, made her leave her home and 6 of her 8 living children.  Her sister took over the household and kept the family from contacting her.  Her husband had what everyone thought was a mistress.  Even after her children were grown, they did not connect with her.  She had a lot to be angry about.  She had a lot of justified reasons for resentment and she had quite a bit, as you can well imagine.  But, after her husband died, she openly accepted those people in her family who wanted to make restitution.  She didn’t demand a thing from them, other than an open mind and heart.  She even took herself to her husband’s rumored mistress and made peace with her.  What do you think?  Was she a weak, desperate person or was she wise and strong?  Was she so use to being used as a doormat that she no longer knew how to stand up for herself, or was she so relieved to let go of years of loneliness and shunning?  All I can tell you, is that I found her actions to make peace with her pain, inspiring.  Oh, it’s so easy to hold onto resentments, to work them over in our minds until we know we are right and our nemesis is oh, so very wrong, perhaps even evil.  But, truly, when I do that, those emotions, those conversations I have with myself, don’t disturb that other person in any way.  The only one who is unsettled and disturbed is me.  Sure, it takes me longer to let go of somethings than others.  But, it really helps me to tell myself that;  I freely forgive myself and others.  I know by putting this affirmation into practice, I am happier, I am more peaceful and I am healthier.  Truly, there are no justified resentments.  Let them all go, especially the ones you hold towards yourself.

The Pocket Knife

Affirmation:  I release myself from my childhood limitations.

It was small and it was red and it was not, at that time, very unusual for a youngish child to want to own such a thing.  I believe I was less than ten when I was gifted it by my father.  It was not considered a weapon, although now looking back, I realize it certainly could have been used as one.  No, it was a symbol of independence, of responsibility.  It empowered and it emboldened!  I could climb the highest tree and carve my name, my initials, and any symbol I created in the uppermost branches.  I became eternal, hidden away among the swaying branches and soft leaves never to be discovered by another but always held in the heart of my childhood.  Children were freer then.  The neighborhood was my playground as long as I was home when the street lights came on.  But, just over the cyclone fence was the forbidden territory, the huge expanse of grass and trees that made up the grounds for the local hospitals.  Oh, once there, it was like escaping to Narnia, adventures unlimited, no adults to supervise or even witness our daring, especially if we were elusive and took care.  Oh, sometimes, the tree resisted my attempts to mount it, but I, with my trusty tool, simply claimed it right where it stood, my name, the date, carved there for all passer-bys, witnessing my ownership, my power! 
And I, but a girl, with the glimmer, with the hope, of what it would be like one day to make my mark on the world, on life.

Emotional Baggage

Affirmation:  I embrace the wisdom of my life’s experiences and let go of any emotional baggage.
Have you ever had something happen in your life that you could not let go of?  Something that seemed to haunt you?  Something that you were sure you had “gotten over” that kept appearing?  Something that kept coming up even in your dreams?
Some things, my husband tells me, have longer tails than others.  I liked that image.  I could see it so clearly.  Some things are simply fond memories;  other things linger long after I believe they serve any purpose.  They can be draining, unsettling.  Sometimes, I can’t even imagine why these thoughts that keep coming up, have become so insistent, so obsessive.  I have tried many tools to re-direct my mind.  I can seem to implement them and they will help for a while, but then “pop,” up they come again.  I haven’t always been like this.  It seems to be something that has come with age or perhaps, the experience has come because I have aged enough to have it.
Recently, I picked up a book someone gave me a long time ago but to which I have not paid much attention.  It’s one of those books that has daily readings.  It’s called, Spiritual Insights for Daily Living
The reading from January 21st brought me healing and I would like to share it with you.
“I am now ready for a cleansing–getting rid of debris that I have harbored much too long.  Anyone who at any time may have contributed to causing disharmony within me, I bring into consciousness and I see them clearly and honestly.  As I visualize them, I say with feeling and complete sincerity: “I fully and freely forgive you.”  I see myself happy about this, and I release them and now go free.  I breathe a deep sigh of relief.  I WILL HAVE NO NEED TO REPEAT THIS.  Whenever they cross my mind, I simply say, I HAVE DEALT WITH THIS.  I send them a blessing and turn my thoughts to something else.  As we are freed of our detrimental emotions, we are free to be healed and to become whole. ”
I love the, “I have dealt with this.”  Truly, it has released me from the hauntings.  The tail has slithered out of my psyche.  I have finally found a way to embrace the wisdom of my life’s experience AND let go of any emotional baggage, at least for now and what else is there?

Carpe Diem

Affirmation:  This is the day the Lord has made, let me rejoice and be glad in it.
My friend and fellow church member died this week.  She had been fighting a recurrent cancer for about a year now.  She chose to stop treatment.  It was no longer helping her.  I’d been by to visit her several times,  over the last couple of months.  I enjoyed sitting with her and discussing different ideas and sharing stories.  I saw her on Thursday of last week.  She was in so much pain.  She was in so much pain and she was so worried about being “rude” to me.  I was lucky.  Before I left her, I leaned over and whispered, “I love you.”  She responded, “I love you too.”  Those were the last words she said to me.  I am holding them tenderly in my heart now as I write and all through this week as we, myself and all those who loved her, go through the rituals of saying our final goodbyes.
We had been in the same church group for about 4 years.  We meet twice a month.  We also found ourselves at the same mass many times and we would sit together.  Other than those occasions, we weren’t really close until she became ill again.  One thing, I knew, she was a very faith-filled woman.  She was always working for the poor, the homeless, those less fortunate than she was.  Interestingly, to me, I found myself wondering if she needed an organ transplant and realized, I would be more than willing to donate.  I never had to make that decision and I learned, I wasn’t the only one who was considering the donation.
I saw her again when I stopped into visit at the rest home where they had brought her to.  They had given her 1 to 2 weeks more to live.  I arrived to a group praying the Rosary.  How comforting it was.  She was unconscious.  After a short while, her best friend and main caregiver, wanted to leave to run some errands.  He asked me and another member of our group to stay with her.  We both had plans but we let them go and remained.  Our patient looked pretty good.  Her color was good and she was breathing easily.  Within 20 minutes, her color changed, her breathing changed and within another 20 minutes, she died.,  We were standing with her, my fellow parishioner and I, when she took her last breath.  I can still see her face.  She was at peace.
Something happened in that time, something profound and transforming.  I don’t know yet, what the effect of this experience will be but I know, it has changed me in a miraculous way.  I feel blessed.  I feel honored.  I feel grateful. 
I believe, from previous experiences and from my education, that many people choose when to die; they chose when to let go and I believe our friend chose to die in our presence.  I also believe that she took a piece of our spirit, our soul with her to heaven.  I am closer to her now than I ever was before.  I became her sister, her sister in Christ, in life and in death.  I have been given a gift, a gift that will be with me for the rest of my life.  And, with this gift, comes the responsibility to embrace life fully, especially each and every day, especially today!