WHY MINDFULNESS MATTERS

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It was the slowest of times; it was the fastest of times. (Apologies to Dickens...) The year 2020 will go down in history as the longest year ever! Yet here we are already zooming toward Thanksgiving. I don’t know about you, but it’s a trying year to stay grateful. That’s exactly why mindfulness matters…

When I’m caught up in the dizzying news cycle, I find myself gasping for air. I tell myself that all will be well…but I don’t believe me. That is, I don’t believe me until I step off the merry-go-round into my backyard where all is indeed well. The fig tree is dropping leaves right on schedule. The fall migrant birds hop along the lawn avoiding contact with our very lazy cat. The wind chimes sound in the breeze just enough to announce their presence. The clouds float by. I can feel my breathing, right here, right now.

Mindfulness isn’t complicated. It simply means stopping for a moment and actually noticing the moment. Without judgement. Without rushing into the next moment - it’ll be here soon enough. Without the jumble of thoughts that are vying for your attention. Just here. Now.

Some years ago, before everything became digital, I would use the analogy of lifting the needle off the record for three full breaths. Even when you put the needle back down, it can’t possibly be in the same place. And neither can you. That’s really all it takes is three breaths to reset your nervous system, soothe your mind and free your heart.

Your body is the perfect reminder to come back to the moment. It's always in the present, patiently waiting for you. James Joyce wrote in Ulysses, "Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body." And don't we all? Or, as Jon Kabat-Zinn once described it, we go on vacation and send postcards that should say, "Having a wonderful time. Wish I was here..."

Mindfulness matters because YOU matter. Because life is actually happening NOW, in each moment. And if we’re always busy in our thoughts, we’ll miss it as it speeds by. 

Consider this an invitation to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n, even if it’s only for a moment… I invite you to sit back, close your eyes, feel your breathing and come back to your body by giving your mind a rest.

Click the link below to listen to Breathe Deep a song about mindfulness from my Soul Feathers album, produced by Thomas Barquee

https://tinyurl.com/yy5reywo


SUMMER STREAM

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In my mind’s eye, I’m floating down a river in a canoe, watching the world go by in a blur of summer colors. Lucky for me, my brain doesn’t know if that’s a memory or a fantasy or my present moment experience. In fact, just thinking about that is like a mini-summer vacation.

In these long days of staying-mostly-at-home-doing-mostly-nothing, it’s the perfect time to begin the process of letting go of our attachments and expectations about how it used to be. This is how it is now, and we must have signed up to be here now because...well, here we are. And humanity as a whole is being asked to grow, to stretch, to evolve our consciousness and expand our hearts. Every single one of us.

How’s it going for you? If you're anything like me, you have a running commentary humming along constantly, from first thing in the morning to the last thing before sleep. This is the perfect time to turn down the volume and tune within. Are you ready to knock softly on your inner door to see if there’s a quiet moment waiting inside? There are hundreds of ways to knock, and answering is richly rewarding.

The loudest knock is meditation, and it’s also the quietest practice. It’s the relief from the relentless noise, online and offline, inside and outside, within and without. The inhalation and the exhalation. It’s as simple as that. Breathe… (Ha! I never realized the words meditate and medicate have only one different letter!)

Fortunately and coincidentally, the technology exists to support people learning how to meditate. There are now excellent apps offering hundreds of guided meditations with world-renowned teachers and lots of types of music. Including mine.

I am super-excited to announce that 11 of my songs are now available on the awesome meditation app called Insight Timer, the #1 app for sleep, anxiety and stress. You can find my music here on the app.

There are 45,000 guided meditation and music tracks available for free! The number of offerings is truly staggering! From Learning How to Meditate to help on establishing a routine, the app also keeps track of your progress as a meditator each day. And, of course, there's a way to Rate and Comment on everything and everyone.

For example, someone from  said this after listening to Just For Today: "This was a cool, refreshing mojito for my overheated mind today. Thank you." And my favorite comment on May I? "Such a lovely song. I will sing this with my granddaughter during our meditation time together ❤. Thank you for sharing. Peace and blessings to you." There's plenty of room for many more comments...

I hope you’ll check out the app, listen to some of my music, find a nice, short meditation and I’ll meet you at the top of the river so we can float down together…-

 

* Image of Lazy Summer Stream by Dimensional Fine Artist, Patrick J. Murphy


MORE MASKED MUSINGS

98034741_10220183807518482_2015201498551549952_oAs the days and weeks continue to go by at breakneck speed and painfully slowly, I find myself paying closer attention to my thoughts - the fears and worries, as well as the wonder and awe. These are mighty powerful waves we’re all surfing together, and the sound of the surf can be deafening at times and soothing at others.

Yup. I feel all kinds of ways about where...and how...we are these days. Our little ship of humanity is being tossed about, and even though I’ve spent years developing my sea-legs, keeping my balance has become a full-time job.

First, some of the positive observations because I always like to start with good news.
Less traffic
Fewer robocalls
Bluer skies
More time to strengthen my spiritual muscles
Cooking new recipes
Finding my own natural rhythm

On the other side of the scale, I miss:
Hugging
Seeing my friends
Visiting my mom
Dining out
The beach
Hundreds of little things I took for granted

And then there is the subject of masks, fraught with political overtones and physical discomfort. I’m happy to report that I discovered, quite by accident, a neat little trick to make wearing one a mask little more pleasant. Snip a few sprigs of rosemary and tuck them into the pocket of the mask. Ahh! Personally, I love the strong scent of the rosemary, and it’s known to have properties to stimulate the brain. (Believe me, my brain welcomes the stimulation!) Further experimentation led me to lavender, jasmine and honeysuckle, all of which are better than none.

I’ve also made an odd observation when I wear my mask to do some grocery shopping and wonder if I’m the only one with this particular affliction. In my pre-mask days, I went to the store with a few items on a list and then wandered the aisles picking up other assorted items, needed or not. Entire meals evolved around an unusual item I'd found, or maybe I’d even spot something I forgot to put on the list but really needed.

Nowadays, when I get inside the store, if I don’t have everything clearly written out on a list, I’m likely to forget EVERYTHING, even if I needed it. It’s as if one of my circuits switched off as soon as I put on my mask. It's the strangest feeling. Do you notice that happening to you too? Please please please, tell me I’m not alone...

I also find myself wondering about the people who feel justified and self-righteous not wearing a mask. Are they the same people who drink and drive? Or don’t wear a seat belt? Or leave their shoes and shirt outside the restaurant that clearly states that people without them won’t be served? Why are some of the measures we take for the good of all acceptable but this one short-term measure has become a political hot potato?

This next part has nothing to do with masks, but it is relevant for these strange times. Now that I have all this TIME not seeing friends and not going shopping, I feel like I "should" be a lot more productive. Like writing a musical (finally) or writing a great book. Or clean out the closets. Or (heaven forbid!) the garage. But I can't seem to hit "kickstarter" to get started. Again, am I the only one? (Again, please tell me I'm not alone...)

So for now, day by day, I’m still walking that middle line, doing my best to not be fearful while not being stupid either. These days, I trust my own inner guidance more than I trust anything I read, watch or hear. I know that there are really only two ways to feel - one feels good and one feels bad. If it feels bad, I know it can’t be from the benevolent Universe I have come to trust. I now really understand, thanks to Deva Premal, that that the opposite of fear isn’t love, as we’ve been taught. The opposite of fear is TRUST. One day at a time. One step at a time. One mask at a time…

For some musical accompaniment for the above, here's my song One Day At A Time because the only way out is through...

The awesome illustration at the top is by my friend Judy Clement Wall, self-proclaimed Artist. Illustrator. Author. Love Warrior. You can see more of her whimsical wisdom, including FREE downloadable coloring pages to soothe during these times at https://judyclementwall.com/

 


LOOKING UP

MaxresdefaultHere we are at the end of April (I think) still trying to figure out what day it is and how to spend it. Everything is quieter, slower, fuzzier. The days of sheltering-in-place blend together like a watercolor, indistinct edges blurring form and function. The way we used to live seems like a distant memory, and we long to go to our favorite restaurant with a group of our dearest friends. Some states have eased up on restrictions while others err on the side of caution to keep their residents safe. It’s confusing and challenging and exhausting. But I believe that things are looking up... At least I am, and I am inviting you to look up too.

What I mean is that we have been asked, as a global family, to slow down, take care of ourselves and each other, and learn a new rhythm for our lives. And I can’t help but notice that there is so much good that is coming out of this period for all of us.

By now, we’ve all seen the videos of the animals taking over empty streets, and the clean water in the canals of Venice, and the comparison photographs of formerly pollution-choked cities. And we’ve seen teacher caravans waving and honking to their students with so much love. There has been an outpouring of support for healthcare workers that echoes through the streets of Manhattan every day at 7 PM. Some restaurants are providing food for people them, and organizations like World Central Kitchen are feeding thousands of meals a day to hungry Americans. Wonderful, heart–opening things are happening all over the world that is changing how we see each other, how we treat each other, and who we are as humans.

I keep getting this image that all of humanity is like a piano keyboard. We are all on different notes, and they are all needed for the symphony. Since the beginning of this pandemic, it’s as if we have all moved up a few notes, collectively, so that the music that we are is now in a higher key. Ancient teachers, sages and prophets have long described a new age for humanity, as we remember who we are and why we’re here. I always wondered how that shift would manifest. I truly believe that we are in the middle of that great shift, and that things are looking up.

That is not to say that this time is without a lot of struggle. And the unspeakable grief of all of those sudden losses. By now, everyone knows someone who has lost someone. Six degrees of separation would be a luxury that we no longer have. Add to that, the millions of people who have lost their jobs or careers and are trying to figure out how to survive, and you might be wondering how I can say things are looking up. I don’t blame you. Sometimes I wonder myself…

And then I start thinking about how this huge change has affected so many things. For example, we are no longer an instant gratification society. Now, when I order a book from Amazon, it doesn’t arrive the next day. It doesn’t even arrive the next week. I am learning patience and anticipation. When the book finally does arrive, I can hardly wait to read it.

My notion of abundance has changed too. When my neighbor's daughter started working at Costco, she kept an eye out for toilet paper and paper towels for me. I felt positively giddy when she delivered a case of each!

I am also learning that what I have is more than enough. Shopping is no longer a pastime. I don’t need new clothes because I’m not going anywhere. I realize how much of my buying habits were just that. Habits.

I feel a deepening of gratitude for my friends. I never really took them for granted, but now I so appreciate every FaceTime call, Zoom party, text or email, just to check in for a virtual hug.

And oh, I am looking up! I look up at the beautiful blue sky, empty of the white streaks from airplanes. I look up at the burgeoning leaves of the fig tree in my yard. I look up and see the spring migrants, like orioles and flycatchers, resting before nesting and raising their young. And if I’m lucky, I can watch a fledgling madly flapping its wings learning how to fly. Kind of like us, stretching new wings to learn a new way to fly without leaving home.

It’s not just the blue sky that has me mesmerized. The stars are clearer, the planets are shining and the moon is the beacon of hope in the night sky.

So I am going to keep looking up, because that’s the only way to see the silver linings in the storm clouds. I hope to see you looking up too...


LIFE BEHIND THE MASK

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Isn’t it incredible how quickly life as we knew it changed into something completely new? I am absolutely gob-smacked at the resilience of Americans. Suddenly, we all keep our social distance when we absolutely have to leave the house. When we get to the store, it’s already been laid out with markers every 6 feet to keep safe the orderly lines waiting their turn to get in or to pay. New signs have sprouted up everywhere proclaiming Take Out and Delivery options available at our local eateries. And we all have a sense we are part of something even bigger than we can imagine.

Most days, if we are not lucky enough to still have a job, we are home, safe in our sanctuaries to choose what we wish to do next. Granted, the choices are limited and getting kind of old…but we are ever-resilient and find ways to amuse ourselves. Sometimes, we even amuse the world with a video gone viral. But mostly, we’ve gotten really really quiet now that there’s no traffic sounds or air traffic overhead.

And overnight, we started wearing masks. Masks that cover up the mask we USUALLY wear when we are in public. Now, all that’s left to communicate are our eyes. Have you noticed that when you’re out and about in the world, no one makes eye contact anymore. They peer out from behind their homemade mask and dip their heads down or away from you.

Which leads me to the realization that SEEING each other just got a whole lot harder. We’ve become largely invisible as we move through the aisles, avoiding contact.

I’ve always been the one who smiles at strangers. No one can see me now, and as a result, I’ve gotten very serious when I’m out in the world. Focused. Anonymous.

I started thinking about it…and I realized that to be kind, it becomes necessary to just BE kind without expressing it through eyes or smile. In other words, I need to ramp up my energy field. It’s the perfect time to strengthen compassion from the inside out, to send the energy of kindness to people we see without seeing. The rippling out of kindness goes much further than a smile, like a pebble in a pond.

We are all needing more love, more contact, more kindness, more hugs. I’ve included the Angel Hug here, a technique taught to me by an angel during a time I needed a hug but lived alone. It's from our little handbook, HEART WIDE OPEN - Self-Care for Caregivers. Over the years, it has soothed me…and millions of other people. Today, may it soothe you…

Angel Hug


The 5 C's of COVID-19

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This sure is a time! Wherever you are, you are certainly in a different place than you were just a few short weeks ago. How are you spending these days? Are you hole-ing up or WHOLE-ing up? The choice is yours...



I’m not Pollyanna, but I believe there are more silver linings than there are clouds. So I’ve come up with the 5 Cs of Covid-19, each one its own silver lining:

1) COMMUNICATION
Now is such a great time to reach out and get in touch with people with whom you might have lost touch - old camp friends, relatives, neighbors. We are all feeling isolated, but we don’t have to be.

Have you noticed how amazing is it that we have the technology right now to SEE each other through our phones and computer screens? For example, I attended a virtual birthday party the other day…and my book group had our regular meeting on Zoom. My husband Patrick and I join a Facebook Live meditation every day…along with thousands of other people from all over the world! We are more connected than ever. 

And honestly, if it weren’t for FaceTime, I would be SO worried about my 92-year-old mom who has been confined to her small apartment in a senior residence for the past 3 weeks. It’s great to SEE her everyday. I’ve even taken her on an evening walk with Patrick and our cat Toesy who likes to walk around the block with us. (We call him our “puppy-cat”.) Mom felt so refreshed afterwards, like she’d explored our neighborhood too!
And it’s an even better time to get in touch with yourself…which leads me to the next C…


2) CONTEMPLATION

Who are you when you’re not busy DO-ing. How do you BE?

We are so identified with what we DO, this pause in our lives might feel awkward. Be-ing isn’t easy, especially in a society that seems to only value do-ing. But its rewards are enormous. Clarity. Calm. Equanimity. Ease. Balance. Inner peace. Sound good? It is. And there are many ways to “practice” being - meditation, yoga, tai chi, doodling, soaking in a warm tub, sitting in the garden, listening to music, cloud gazing, rubbing your dog’s belly, cooking a meal with love, spending quality time with YOU. Any or all of these ways, and many more possibilities beckon. 

If you’ve ever thought about meditation, this is the perfect time to learn. When you go within, it doesn’t matter what is happening without.

So go inside…see who’s in there, waiting for this opportunity to delight you… You might find an artist just waiting for a piece of blank paper. Yes, the next C is…

3) CREATIVITY

Have you noticed how Covid-19 has opened up endless ways to be creative? I have never seen funnier, more clever, more thoughtful expressions of the human spirit. 

I first became aware of the amazing unlimited variety of creative expression at an art festival at a gourd farm. Yes, you heard that right…a farm that only grows gourds. Fat ones, skinny ones, flat ones, tall ones…hundreds of shapes and sizes. 

Gourd artists flocked to this festival to buy supplies and show their art. I was amazed at how each artist approached the gourd - some used its shape to dictate the piece, like a gourd with a long neck became a swan. Others imposed their art onto the gourd with painting, scraping or adorning it. Still others carved the space around their picture so that the negative space became the art. 

And so it is with us. We can each approach these long days at home with fresh ideas on how to fill them.

When we make the shift from fear to just noticing that in this moment, we’re fine…we get to actually experience this moment instead of giving it away thinking about something we are worried about. 

I know, I know…not so easy these days where the drumbeat of fear is louder than our own beating hearts… For me, I have to come back to the moment a million times a day right now. If it isn’t MY fear, I am also tapping into the collective fear. Aren’t we all…

But how’s this for a shift of perspective? Instead of thinking of it at “stuck at home,” think of it as “safe at home.” What a difference a word makes… This way, we are taking CARE of ourselves and others instead of resenting sheltering in place. Yup. The next C is…

4) CARE

How are you caring for yourself during this time? There are SO many ways to do that! I’m just going to touch on a few…
Can you use this dramatic pause to take a closer look at what you now have time to change in your life? What habits no longer serve you? What have you been wanting to do but didn’t have time to get started? Are you noticing your relationships are shifting? What about your relationship with you??

Are you using the healing power of nature every day? If you can get outside, enjoy the air, the sky, the birds… And even if you can’t leave your quarantine even for a walk, there are wonderful virtual tours online of just about everything including the National Parks. I even saw a virtual tour of Ireland…it’s the next best thing to being there…

And there are hundreds of books to download, Broadway shows to enjoy, films from the Library of Congress to watch, yoga classes, art projects, dance tracks… I don’t know about you, but these days are going SO FAST with all there is to do!

See if you can take time every day to look at all the positives coming out of this period - kindness is even more contagious than the virus if you give it freely and often. There are SO many tiny moments - a smile behind a mask, a chalk drawing on the sidewalk, families walking together with or without a dog…

We are all in this together. Which leads me to the last C…

5) COMPASSION

What a perfect time this is to connect to your heart and breathe into its nourishment. Take it in…let it grow…and share the deepening with everyone you see/email/FaceTime/text/think about. We ARE all Connected. So now you can decide whether you are “hole-ing up”…or “whole-ing up?” The Choice is ours about whether to be in fear or in love. I’m sure you know by now that I choose Love. And I suspect you do too…

“Love is the freedom, Love is the way
Love is a choice that we make every day
Love is the answer to every fear
Love is the reason we’re here…Love is the reason we’re here…”

Click here to Listen: https://tinyurl.com/qlhkh4l

Click here to celebrate our beautiful planet with a video and song "Love Mother Earth": https://youtu.be/c1SHqOlsLfs

And above all, take care of you...