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Some Questions For You

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One of the blessings of pretending to be retired is having the time for reflection. Last week, I went on a silent retreat at Dayspring, a rustic spiritual retreat center not far from my home. There were no epiphanies or mystical visions, but I did have a restful day of walking, reading, and writing.

My meditative moments often produce more questions than answers, so I thought I’d pose a few for you, too — kind of a mini-retreat. Why not pretend to be retired for the moment, and pause to rest and contemplate some of life’s questions?

First, take a few deep breaths and quiet your mind. Relax. The world won’t stop spinning if you take a ten-minute break.

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Now – what interferes with your serenity these days? What’s causing you anxiety or stress? Are you worried about the past or the future, instead of enjoying this gift of today? Are there dark corners of your mind that need to be swept clean or old resentments that need to be scooped out and dumped in the dust bin? I’ve heard it said that holding on to resentment is like drinking poison every day and waiting for the other person to die.

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Where’s the color in your life?

 

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What fills your spirit with joy and celebration? Can you devote more time to these pursuits and these people? Are you laughing enough?

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CELEBRATE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you cultivate peace in your life? Could you be more intentional about it?

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Do you ever give yourself the gift of doing nothing? Does “doing nothing” make you anxious? If so, why? Are you avoiding emotions?

 

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Are there parts of yourself that you have locked away? Gated communities in your soul that block the scenery of your life? What are you keeping in? What are you keeping out?

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Are there fires that have grown cold? Things that used to warm your soul or ignite your passions but that no longer do? Is it time to scatter the ashes and move on, or could the embers be fanned back into flame with some attention from you?

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Why not “come away by yourself to a lonely place,” as Jesus said, and plan a quiet day to seek perspective on your life? To step back and look for patterns in the seemingly random twists and turns? Perhaps the boulders you keep stumbling over have lessons to teach you — maybe they are an important part of your journey.

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 Go ahead – sit on a bench and watch the morning go by.

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Spend the afternoon with a good book.

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 Most of all, enjoy the simple things.

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Creating Abundance

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I was chatting with my neighbor Linda this morning about psychology, types of therapy, and what constitutes childhood trauma. You know, the usual over-the-back-fence conversations.

We agreed that there are two ways to view life, metaphysically speaking: as if the universe, or God, or whatever Higher Power might exist is good and benevolent, or as if She/He/It is vindictive and negative. Some folks simply expect good things, like the person who says (and actually believes) “everything will work out OK,” while others cycle between “It figures,” or “What do you expect?” or “Of course this would happen to me.”

You can see the physical manifestation of these mindsets in the lined faces of elderly people, can’t  you? Were their eyebrows often raised in wonder or expectation, their cheeks creased by smiles? Or were their mouths drawn down in discontent or bitterness?

Johnny

What’s Johnny’s mindset?

Family Flack

Our childhoods and the attitudes we absorbed from our families heavily influence which side of the dichotomy we occupy. If your father regularly dumped his obsessive financial angst on your little head, you might have grown up fearful, expecting the worst. If your older siblings railed at you, “What the hell is wrong with you??” whenever something happened to spill or break in your vicinity, you might have grown up believing that you are such a loser you don’t deserve anything good to happen to you anyway.

I have a friend who invariably remarks whenever I share anything good that’s come my way, “How come nothing like that ever happens to me?” His attitude sucks the joy out of his own life and out of our interactions.

Counting the Cost of Freedom

My point is this: we have choices in this matter. If we have learned an attitude of scarcity and a mistrust of fate as kids, we can decide to do the hard work of recovery as adults and unlearn the negative beliefs that make us unhappy.

Oh sure, there is some satisfaction in playing the victim or in anticipating scarcity and/or trouble. It feels good to say, “See? I knew it. I was right.” There’s a certain sense of control in that. And it’s familiar and comfortable.

One has to calculate the costs of abandoning negativity and the benefits of launching into the unknown realm of hope.

What we Nurture

One of the bugaboos that clings to me like a fat tick is my habit of nurturing dread. When things are going smoothly, my default is to wonder what’s going to go wrong.

“This can’t last – when’s the other shoe going to drop?” is a perfectly natural reaction for a person who grew up in an alcoholic family. Anything could and would happen.

And this is true in general. Good times will pass because change is the nature of life. Good times pass, but so do bad times. Happy times and sad times. Life is both/and.

It’s what you choose to focus on that creates your reality. Something awful might happen tomorrow, but why should I ruin today by thinking about it? I have better things to nurture.

Which brings me to creativity.

Creating Abundance

One of the reasons I enjoy reading fine literature is that I find the world of words and ideas to be infinitely expansive. That’s why I write, too. When I’m in the zone, my tiny mind is released from all constraints, and I expect magic. It might not *read* like magic, but it *feels* like magic.

Creating and experiencing art gives me a sense of open, boundless freedom through which I can connect to others.

My neighbor Linda is sitting on her patio picking out a new song on the guitar. She plucks and sings, then picks up her pen and writes. I’m sitting on my porch, writing this blog. The fact that Linda is exhibiting her creativity doesn’t mean that there’s less for me. In fact, there’s a symbiosis going on. Her guitar is providing a soundtrack for my morning and bringing back memories loaded with creative potential; she asks if I can help her with lyrics.

Inside a human head and heart there exists a reality of limitless abundance and possibility waiting to be unleashed, no matter what’s going on in day-to-day reality. When you open to this creative spirit, whether its visual arts, music, or writing, you are saying you believe in abundance. You believe there is more than enough.

And it is all good.

Julia Cameron writes in her book, The Artist’s Way Every Day: A Year of Creative Living:

“Because art is born in expansion, in a belief in sufficient supply, it is critical that we (artists) pamper ourselves for the sense of abundance that it brings to us.”

She says that creative blocks usually come from our attitudes. “The actual block is our feeling of constriction, our sense of powerlessness. Art requires us to empower ourselves with choice. At the most basic level, this means choosing to do self-care.”

I like people who tell me to pamper myself. I’m thinking I might go see a movie instead of cleaning my dining room. For the sake of creativity, of course.

Make Something Good!

I hope that you get a chance to do something fun and creative this summer. If you don’t think of yourself as the creative type, I call B.S. You were creative when you were a little kid, and you can recapture it. It’s all in the attitude.

Give yourself permission to believe something different.

Finger paint.

Write a poem or a children’s story.

Build an awesome sand castle.

Make some quality mud pies with your kid.

Experience the abundance that’s bottled up inside you.

Happy summer!

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