A Chicken Soup Full Circle

When I was in junior high, I was overjoyed with The Chicken Soup For The Soul book series. I think I knew in my early teens that self-help books were going to be my favorite genre. I was even able to meet author Jack Canfield when he did a signing in my Ohio town. Twenty plus years later my first story finally made it into a Chicken Soup For The Soul series: Be You.

For those who have never read a book from this series, each one contains 100 stories or poems that help inspire and uplift us. Just as chicken soup mends us during the times we have the flu, these stories help warm our hearts. I am so grateful to be part of the chicken soup family.

I encourage us all to find comfort during these difficult days, whether through our pets, loved ones, inspirational zoom classes, and of course a powerful book.

“Reading Is To The Mind, As Exercise Is To The Body.” – Brian Tracy

My Input is Carefully Curated

This is a topic that came up in several conversations this past week.  I watch minimal television these days, but it was not always the case.  Eight years ago when I lived in America, the television would have celebrity gossip shows in the background.  I would watch these as I either did homework or prepared dinners, not noticing how I absorbed all this excess useless knowledge and how it impacted my mental space.  Yet two weeks ago, a friend sent a twenty minute video to me about gossip extrordinaire Perez Hilton.  I could not even get past several minutes of this.  The video seemed so loud, annoying, and pointless.  How was this always part of my life?  We do not always recognize the impact something has on us until that thing is removed.  I recognized the reason this was so shocking to my nervous system is it’s no longer part of my life.  I do not watch much television or even listen to the radio anymore.  It’s solely podcasts and books, which are carefully curated to inspire and motivate me.

My body and mind seems to yearn for this quiet space.  For many people initially the silence is deafening.  Their problems may begin to bubble up and the inevitable feelings of loneliness.  It’s easier to drown it out with noise.  But what kind of life is that?  What kind of life do you want to live?  How can you carefully curate your input?

How do you want to live your days?  If you are to have media be part of your life, what influence do you want it to have on you?  Perhaps you can choose your media instead of it blindly choosing you.

Make Your Morning Intentional

“How you start your day is how you live your day.  How you live your day is how you live your life.”-Louise Hay

            What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

            Perhaps you hit snooze.  Or scroll on your phone, searching social media or the latest news updates.  Maybe your simple words on waking are, “Meh. Another day.”

            There is power in developing a daily discipline practice, and this begins with making our mornings intentional.  Louise Hay’s words quoted above have truth to them, but so often we forget this.  We know that we want to have an intentional year with the goals we set in January, but so often we forget that we can be intentional with each day.  

            In preparing how to start this practice, think of what the day is asking of you.  Although life may sometimes appear to be very Groundhog Day (particularly during this pandemic), there is variety to what the day calls for. Therefore, our intentions may be different each day and for each person.  If we have to lead a meeting or upload a podcast we have been working on, the intention for the day may be “wisdom.”  If it’s a total day off of work or job hunting, our intention for the day may be “relaxed” or “peaceful.  If you are having a date with your partner indoors or even connecting with old friends over zoom for a monthly catchup the word may be “present.” 

            This small additional practice in choosing a one word intention for each morning encourages us to live into that mantra. We are reminded for our attention to live into our intention.  At the end of the day, note how you were true to that intention.  This is a practice we must nurture, so if it is difficult in the beginning, don’t give up.  There is always tomorrow.

            For a short meditation on this topic, check out my Make Your Morning Intentional meditation available for free on the Insight Timer app or from this link below:

Extra Boosts of Vitamin D

Recently I had a high school friend say to me that she felt like I was born with an extra boost of Vitamin D, her euphemism for optimism. I took it at as a compliment, as she has known me for over twenty years. Yet although my tendencies may veer towards optimism, or being the perpetual care bear, it’s a trait I practice. Below are some ways that are known to boost our mood, many of which may pump up your Vitamin D dosage as well.

  1. Daily Gratitude Lists
  2. Reframe
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Squeeze in even the smallest amounts of sun you can get a day
  5. Have an uplifting playlist
  6. Dance
  7. Take a walk in your neighborhood
  8. Keep company who inspire and uplift you
  9. Be present with anyone in your presence: loved ones, children, pets, strangers
  10. Read inspirational books

I’ve spent years studying psychology and being a psychologist, and the list seems so simple. Yet the point is to make it an everyday practice. In some ways it’s a spiritual practice. How can you love the life you have today? Part of the reason I started my podcast and blog is I want to share this extra boost of vitamin d. It is difficult to see others struggle around me, and I can only shine my care bear light on them so long. It’s up to the individual to take action. Take one simple step in shifting your life by choosing one of these practices, and keep it as part of your daily life. The change comes in the discipline.

“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”-Joseph Campbell

My Podcast Golden Mirror is One Year Old

Where were you January 2020? What were your goals and aspirations for the year? Were you able to achieve them? One year ago I chose to start a tiny podcast to boost inspiration to anyone who would listen. I noticed there were weekly themes that came up in conversations and reflections, I wanted to share this with others. An old friend recently said to me that I was built with extra Vitamin D. My optimism could get me through anything, and I think she is right. Therefore I want to share my extra boosts of positivity with you via the podcast, these inspirational cards (which may be why you are on this site), or this blog.

I started the podcast before we were deep in the pandemic. Hosting the podcast was one avenue of creativity for me, in addition to writing, Tik Tok dance videos, collages, yoga, and picking up the ukulele. I am curious what has kept you inspired for the year?

Check out weekly bite sized wisdom via I Tunes or the link below.

Hope

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, which is celebrated as the official marking of winter and a pagan holiday. Yet December 21st is also the shortest day of the year. We receive the least amount of daylight annually on this day. This sounds grim, but there is a sacredness to it. I look forward to this day each year, because what comes after is a blessing. Everyday from here till the summer solstice we will gain 2 minutes and 8 seconds of sunlight a day. This may seem minimal, but it adds up. This day for me symbolizes hope.

I watch my dog Bella in our library this afternoon, and she has been pivoting positions on the couch to follow the sun’s rays. She knows how medicinal the sun is, even if it is felt through a window pane. I watch how the sun sets on her body, before she changes locations on the couch and does this all over again. Feeling the sun for a few hours, there is warmth and hope. This is particularly true in the dreary British months.

In the midst of a pandemic and the craziness of 2020, feeling momentary sunlight on one’s face is so refreshing. Knowing that we will get a little more each day reminds me the worst is behind. There is something to look forward to. More sun.

We go through this process each year of Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. The cycles of life are packed into these twelve months. Intellectually we know what to expect next, but each season still seems to surprise us. We may have experienced 40 winters, but for some reason, this is one is unique. This may be said with each passing season, but there is truth to it. Each season, each moment should be embraced for it’s unique nature. As we officially transition from fall to winter tomorrow, and enter into the holiday season (quarantines and all), may we find the smallest bits of joy that arise in our days. My wish is for you to connect to a thread of hope that will carry you through towards a sunnier tomorrow.

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” — Henry David Thoreau

My 12 Commandments

I am in the process of re-reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  In the book for one year, she tackles a different theme each month as a way to improve her happiness.  Yet in the beginning of the book, she wrote a list of 12 Commandments to live by and a list of the Secrets of Adulthood, from her perspective.  As I continue to dip into her world, I can’t help but recreate my own list of the 12 Commandments.  What are the lessons that I want to keep in my life daily? 

            As I wrote these, the first commandment written admittedly was a complete copy of hers, although this is paradoxical.  Hers was Be Gretchen, mine therefore was Be Tricia.  Essentially what this boils down to is be authentic. This lesson seems quite simple, yet how often do we live by this principle?  To be true to ourselves, we must first question our behaviors and values that we currently hold.  Are they truly ours, or an inherited value from our families or society.  It is easy to live up to the principles that are set before us, but how often do we reflect on creating our own commandments? How have you been choosing to live your life?  Has this changed over the years?

            What is required of us after questioning our values and principles, is to query if they are outdated, and if they need to be decluttered and either simplified or replaced?  Hand me down values do not always seem to fit in the right way. They are either too loose fitting, tight in the wrong places, or simply out of style.  What holds true for you at this phase of your life? 

            2020 has probably been a deep time of reflection for most of us.  The world as we know it was paused and shaken up.  It took us out of our routine, out of our busy lives.   As we sat at home, without the regular escape to the local pub, getaway weekend, or store, we began to challenge how we have been living our lives. Going forward into 2021, I challenge you to create your own list of commandments and opt to live by them wholeheartedly. 

Acts of Kindness During Pandemics

As I write this on Thanksgiving Day, I am reminded not just what I am thankful of or the pending pre-holiday sales that are looming, but the simple acts of kindness I have experienced over the year. This included a recent visit to my beauty aesthetician who gave me a touch up for free, for no reason. It’s the face masks that were handmade to friends and family as offerings from sewing queens. Kindness is the florist who has extended me free sunflowers. It’s the smiles I witness among strangers even when half of our faces are covered up. Caring is the act of me donating a bike for children in need at a local bike shop. It’s the extension of welcoming an acquaintance to one’s home during the holidays, so one won’t be alone. It’s the weekly zoom call I share with my high school friends, as we laugh, share, and dream together in different cities in the world. Kindness arose as my friend and temporary roommate threw an impromptu surprise birthday celebration for me during lockdown. Warmth is the body heat that arises on cold days, as my dogs snuggle up with me on a couch.

It’s so easy to focus on what is wrong in the world and how this year is different than any other. Life is not full of ease. Our worlds have been disrupted, to include our social lives, travels, and adventures. For those hit worse, many have lost jobs, health insurance, and loved ones. Yet in this, we can still catch acts of kindness. Life may be surreal right now, but we can capture everyday moments of love and gratitude.

Years ago when I started this blog, it began with gifting strangers and loved ones with little inspirational cards with a positive quote and a photo of my pets. It was a small tangible token of gratitude for an act of kindness they may have done or given in addition to a tip. Since Covid, I have paused in passing out these small little cards but have been offering bits of inspiration on my podcast below. For those who are in my atmosphere, I have ordered new itonlytakesasmile.com cards, with another captivating quote. I can’t wait to start sharing these again. This habit is something that was such a small part of my life, but it had a big impact. My heart warmed when I visited people again who kept these cards on their desks, whether they were friends, store owners, psychics, or beauty aestheticians. Thank you for all that have served me. Covid is not the only thing that is contagious, kindness is contagious. And kindness will continue to outlast this all.

I’ve started a podcast this past year, called The Golden Mirror. Check out a recent episode below about unexpected acts of kindness.

Silent Retreats are like Extra Work

                  On a silent retreat this past year, I couldn’t help but explore how silent retreats are similar to extra work.  Extra work are also known as background players, those who walk in the background of your beloved television shows and movies.  I did this part time job while in graduate school for four years, and here is what I learned.

  1. We don’t talk…pantomime.
  2. It’s a unique experience, and you bond quickly.
  3. Food included is a bonus.
  4. Don’t talk unless spoken to.
  5. Long hours sitting (or standing) can be tough on the body.
  6. Unpaid work is unappreciated
  7. Nobody understands unless they have been there.
  8. You have hours to kill.
  9. Only 1-2 people talk while everyone else is quiet.
  10. People from all walks of life have central individual goal: liberation or to “make it”
  11. Vulnerability is achieved quickly, go deep with others when you finally do talk.
  12. Romances may form (inc. vippasana romances)
  13. Bring multiple changes of clothes.
  14. Feels like groundhog day: same day activities repeat or the scene repeats
  15. There can be familiar faces you recognize at both retreats and extra work.
  16. There will be showoffs.
  17. Since you are silent much of the time, stories build in your head.
  18. You are paired off into dyads or walking partners.
  19. Boredom can breed creativity.
  20. There is time to write.
  21. It is what you make of it: horror or dream
  22. Everyone is playing an unnamed role.
  23. We are likely to overstuff ourselves with food, obsess about when you will eat and what will be served.
  24. SAG vouchers attained or number of silent retreats attended are like badges of honor.
  25. People try to get close to the star/meditation teacher.
  26. You are the extras in each other’s experience: extended time to be in each other’s background.
  27. You daydream how life can be different.
  28. At one point you question, “what did I get myself into?”
  29. When have you had this much free time?
  30. There’s a bonding over the next show or retreat to book when it’s over.
  31. Celebrations are at the end, numbers are exchanged.
  32. You cannot leave unless they release you.
  33. Delirium can set in.
  34. There is a collective goal of community.
  35. There is no escape, you are stuck in a small place.
  36. There is a potential to explore possibilities. 
  37. On the outside if people observed this, may view you as zombies. 
  38. Friends and family not familiar with these activities are yearning to hear how the experience went.
  39. The event is generally enjoyed in the anticipation building up to the initiation or the end, but rarely in the process of being amidst it. 
  40. These experiences will make great stories to tell later.

The Garden Maze

            On the banks of Bath, there lies a Garden Maze. In actuality, it exists as a maze or labyrinth.  I believe if you enter and turn right it is a labyrinth.  Labyrinths exist with only one entrance to the center.  There is no trickery here, only one route to go.  If you opt to go to the left, it is a maze. Mazes are a choose your own adventure story.  Multiple choices are made with your feet, and you could be steered wrong to a dead end or feel as if you are walking in circles.

             I had led a couples retreat on this exact Garden Maze years ago.  I let couples have the choice of labyrinth or maze.  I had forgotten which direction led to maze or labyrinth as I stumbled on the path again today.  It was the maze.  I tried to go the route that didn’t seem obvious, what appeared to be the longer route. I knew it would attempt to trick me. I was curious if I would just give up, but I was determined to make it to the center.  As luck would have it, I did.  There was so much pride in this.  It would have been so easy to give up and jump straight into the core, pretending I had the knowledge to make it here. Or just give up.  Yet, when I made it, I breathed a sigh of relief. As I gazed at the central figure, I couldn’t help but feel as if this was the journey of life.  There were various paths and options to take.  There was no easy answer that took you straight to the center.  The reward was in the hopeful meandering would lead you towards the end result of jubilation.   I wanted to celebrate my achievement by doing a yoga or dance pose.  I didn’t but opted to walk around the large mosaic that formed the center, and actually choose to write this blog post from the core.  

            I saw a couple initiate the path, but they started to walk different directions.  The male had said they could go two separate ways and see who made it.  The female didn’t want to go on the path alone, and so they gave up. As I sat in the center, I saw two blokes who looked like they wanted to take the path.  They started to draw the lines with their fingers, seeing if they were tracing their way to the center.  Since they did not do it immediately, they chose to not even begin the path.  I was by this maze for more than one hour with more than loads of tourists passing by as the sun began to set.  Nobody else even tried.  

            Is this how it is in life?  We are in an era of instant gratification.  If the results are not achieved immediately, we may not even try.  Discouragement is found so easily, that it prohibits some from even beginning the path. In observing these two groups of people, one group barely entered the maze and the other never even started. Even though there are no guarantees in life, it doesn’t mean you cannot overcome a challenge.  A puzzling situation may arise, and I am curious if you have the patience to walk your way through to the answer.  It reminds me of Rilke’s quote: “Live the questions now, like unlocked doors. And one day you may live your way to the answer.”

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