Sunday, January 31, 2010

Not a Moment Too Soon (repost)

“Life is all about timing…the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable becomes available, and the unattainable becomes attainable. Have the patience, wait it out; it’s all about timing.” ~ Stacey Charter

While I was driving, yesterday, I noticed a small fly on my car window. It walked the length and width of the glass several times, occasionally stopping as if to think of a new plan of action. Suddenly, it took off from the glass and flew around the car for a while, just to land back on the same spot.

I knew that if I opened the window while the car was in motion the rush of air would have simply pushed it back, so I waited until I found a red light. I lowered the glass slowly and waited for fly to walk up toward the rim, then, opened it completely and watched the tiny insect fly off to live the rest of its destiny.

I wonder what the fly felt in those few moments, as it looked for a way out when none seemed available. Freedom appeared near, yet no matter how hard it tried to get out, no effort seemed good enough. Until the timing for release was right - although the fly was ready to go the moment it spotted the light outside the glass, all other conditions were not optimal at that time.

In the greater scheme of things, as we go through life we are not too different than the tiny fly in my car. We see the things we would like to achieve but feel something out of our control is stopping us from getting there; we convince ourselves that poor luck or outside occurrences are to blame for our lack of achievement, but rarely realize that what we wish may be eluding us simply because the timing is off.

I remember thinking that once, when as a child I had gone to visit one of my mother’s aunts who had an apricot tree. It appeared to me that every time we went the fruits were never ripe enough to pick, but it wasn’t the tree’s fault – we were simply going too early in the season. The tree had to first awaken in the spring, the leaves had to form on the branches, the flowers had to blossom, and finally they had to turn into fruits. Even after the whole metamorphosis, more time was needed for the fruits to ripen. It wasn’t bad luck, or lack of ability – it was just too early for the apricots to be ready.

When something seems to be resisting our efforts, and we have already done what we could to get things in motion, continuing to bang on a dead door will not bring in any quicker results; if anything, it will add to our frustration, as everything follows an order of things that is not for us to determine. Although shadowed by the things we consider more important, there are plenty of things in or daily routine that can use our direct attention. Focusing on those seemingly less important tasks or goals frees our minds from the anxiety associated with waiting, and allows us to take a brief mental vacation.

There is a time for everything, largely outside of our individual control. What is truly important is that we don’t give up on what is important to us. We must continue to hope and know that good things come to those who wait – just not always in the time they have erroneously chosen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Storm and The Rainbow

The sun still shines behind the storm clouds. Although this is a scientifically proven fact, it is also the first thing people choose to forget when Mother Nature unleashes its fury. Quite similarly, whenever we are caught in a life storm, we get easily swept into the whirlwinds of fear and doubt, and forget about the cyclical nature of all things. We survive through the birth and death of loved ones, disease and marriage crisis, parental challenges and job uncertainties, but we seldom take the time to observe that each event quickly explodes and saturates our lives with uninvited misery only for a limited time, before it naturally runs out of steam and comes to an end.

If we were able to see the bigger picture beyond the blinding patina of drama, we would see life storms for what they truly are: the necessary eradication of the old and the nurturing of the new. We blame unpleasant occurrences on an unkind destiny, and rarely acknowledge that the storms we ride are necessary portals we must step through, if we ever hope to reach the finish line and achieve what our hearts desire. A person stuck in the stagnant waters of an unsatisfactory relationship may have to face the storm of a breakup, before he or she can focus on seeing the sparkling light of a new, more fulfilling love affair. If parents wish for their children to become more responsible and realistic, their own lives may be temporarily unsettled by the mistakes the children will have to make, as they learn a sobering lesson which will gift them with greater wisdom and an increased sense of reality.

Most life storms bring along winds of change, but even if we eternally wish for positive alterations in our lives, deep down everyone is afraid of shaking things up. We unrealistically expect to reach the desired destination without going on the trip.

Just as weather storms are visible on radars and to the naked eye, most life storms are also easy to detect before they approach, and allow us time to make the necessary preparations. In a few cases when situations explode without warning, we need to be aware that even those events will often lead to unexpected benefits in their aftermath.

Whether we go through a summer storm, a sudden tornado, or even a hurricane, all that will ever be destroyed is the manmade illusion of material stability. What truly matters remains untouched, and sometimes even enriched.

We can’t expect that life will pass uneventfully, as much as we can’t expect that sunshine will last forever – obstacles and storms create a contrast and allow us to appreciate peaceful days and warm weather. The next time dark clouds loom ominously on the horizon, we can remember that this new storm, like all others before, will pass, the clouds will dissipate, and the sun will shine brightly again. And, maybe for the first time in our life, we’ll notice a beautiful rainbow, painted with the colors of new and unforeseen opportunities.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keeper of the Key

Yesterday afternoon, my daughter and I watched “Barbie’s Diaries” together. In the story, Barbie, a teenager, dreams of being part of the popular crowd, but neither her beauty, nor her many talents, seem enough to buy her a ticket in.

She gets a glimpse of celebrity life when she briefly dates Todd, one of the popular boys in school, but inadvertently she steps on the wrong toes – those of Raquelle, Todd’s ex-girlfriend and the most popular, vicious girl in school.

When Todd chooses to ask Raquelle to the formal dance instead than Barbie, Barbie accepts her defeat as something to be expected. Her friends take her to the mall to get her mind off the failed relationship, and while they are browsing in a store, a mysterious shopkeeper gives Barbie and her friends charm bracelets as a gift. The one Barbie selects comes with a diary, and she is instructed by the shopkeeper to write her innermost thoughts into it if she wants to see them come true.

Barbie skeptically follows the shopkeeper’s direction, still expecting nothing to change; she asks for true love, and just a few days later a mysterious admirer begins to leave romantic notes in her locker; she wishes for popularity, and soon everything seems to fall into place – the popular kids begin asking her to hang out, her band is scheduled to play at the formal, and the boy of her dreams pays her attention!

The downside is that when the tide turns in favor of her wishes, Barbie no longer has time for her two friends, Tia and Courtney, and for Kevin, a boy who has a mad crush on her but is too shy to let her know of his feelings.

Shortly before her performance at the formal is about to start, Barbie loses her magic bracelet and her confidence instantly plummets. She is convinced that without the bracelet she won’t be able to play, even if during rehearsals she and her friends were great, so she announces that she won’t be going. Kevin breaks a piece of guitar string and ties it around Barbie’s wrist; she smiles at him gratefully, but tells him that a silly piece of metal can’t make her a different person. That’s when reality finally hits her – the charm bracelet wasn’t responsible for changing her life and attitude, she had done it all on her own once she felt something outside of her was sustaining her through the change. In many ways, the bracelet was magical, because owning it had pushed her to write in the diary, and by unraveling her thoughts she had allowed her true self to come out. Those gifts were always there, but until then she never had enough confidence to use them.

As the story draws to an end, Barbie finds out that her secret admirer is her faithful friend Kevin, and she realizes that Todd is not that special after all; in her mind, he was a key to the door of popularity, but now that she can enter on her own merit, she suddenly sees him for who he is – a shallow kid she has nothing in common with.

Each one of us has special gifts we keep locked up in a secret chamber until someone or something reminds us we are the ones who hold the key to unlock them and bring them out of hiding. Our gifts might be different than those of others, but that fact alone makes them special and unique, and we should be proud of sharing them with others.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Going Up

“Every day is my best day; this is my life. I am not going to have this moment again.” ~ Bernie Siegel

Just a few days ago, one of my neighbors walked by my house while I was working in the yard, and we talked for a few minutes. When she got ready to leave, I wished her a good day and resumed what I was doing; before I could turn away, she smiled and said: “ Oh, please, don’t wish me a good day; I’m glad it’s almost evening and this day is over.”

I asked her if anything was the matter, and she simply replied that nothing particularly good or bad had happened, but it had been a long day. After she was gone, I thought about what my neighbor said. Nothing monumental had happened, but here she was, walking on her own legs, breathing, and able to freely move around in a nice neighborhood at a relaxed pace – all things that someone living a harsher reality might have considered a slice of Heaven.

Her reaction was not too different from the response I’ve had from other people before, when I have asked how their day was going. “I need to find something to do to pass the day,” said one; “If I stay busy, at least the day moves faster,” said another. Are we really in such a rush to use up our days? Then what?

The average life of a human being is about 80 years, or the equivalent of about 28,000 days. By the time we have reached mid-life, we have already used approximately half of our supply, and that doesn’t factor in the fact that our number of available days could be cut down even smaller by illness or accidents.

Beginning in early childhood, we rush time – as toddlers we want to be big kids, as kids we wish to be teenagers, as teens we count days until we are adults, and as adults we fantasize about the days we will be able to retire and enjoy our golden years. By the time we get to the golden years, we wish we could turn back the clock because, quite often, we have wasted our lives maintaining our focus on the next target rather than making the most of what we had when we had it.

Imagine being in an elevator car in a museum – all floors have interesting exhibits, but as soon as we get out on one floor we are already thinking about all the neat stuff awaiting at the next level, and rush through the displays; by the time we get to the last floor, we can’t go any further, and one of the employees informs us that we need to move forward toward the exit because we can’t use the same elevator to go back down to the floors we have already visited. We leave the museum feeling that we have missed out on a lot; we could have made the most of our trip if we had taken the time to enjoy the exhibits on every floor rather than rushing through them.

In the film “Meet Joe Black”, the angel of death is thrilled at the opportunity of experiencing earthly life; a spoonful of peanut butter is interesting to him because he has never tasted it before. By the time we reach our adult years, we have experienced many things, but there are just as many we have never tried. They don’t have to be big or expensive experiences, but maybe just something outside our average routines – bringing warm socks to a state-run facility for the elderly, going to play with animals at a shelter, going to load groceries for the Angel Food Network, running meals to the disabled, trying a new, exotic food; the choice is endless, and the time commitment can be very flexible. Even a smile, a hug, or a few words exchanged with someone we normally wouldn’t entertain could make our days different and interesting.

It’s not difficult to make today a special day, one worthy of being remembered through time; and if someone is willing to eat a whole spoonful of peanut butter to try something new, we can at least be willing to dispense a genuine smile to the stranger we have ignored until now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Judge Not - A Reflection on Interfering in the Lives of Others

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think yours is the only path.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Yesterday afternoon I was talking to someone who’s struggling with her conscience about not being able to help a friend in need. After we talked for a while, my friend explained some of the problems her friend is having, and asked what I would do in her place if, like her, I couldn’t afford to give the friend financial support. After helping this lady on several occasions in the past, she is unable to help her with the current crisis, and she feels as if she is abandoning her friend to an unkind destiny.

My first question to her was about faith. The majority of us live our lives without ever even figuring out our own purpose on earth; could we possibly be aware of the purpose others came to fulfill? One of the greatest lessons most spiritual paths teach us is to not judge, but I believe that through time and multiple translations of sacred texts, the main meaning of that lesson has been lost, or in the least, greatly changed.

Not judging others doesn’t only mean that we shouldn’t judge their actions against our scale of right and wrong, but rather, it also means that we shouldn’t judge their potential, or their need to be living a specific reality. The people we so badly wish to help might have the means to help themselves, if empowered enough by the unfolding of events; by denying them the chance of standing on their own, we also deprive them of the ability to discover their own strengths, and we shield them from the reality of their own poor choices, the awareness of which is fundamental to move past certain blocks. Each of us has a reservoir of creative energy, which often remains locked up until survival kicks in.

While it is hard to watch a friend go through hard times, it is important to remember that each of us have a different destiny to fulfill. We may have come to learn a lesson of patience, while our friend is instead here to learn about faith; as much as we would love to make everyone’s life better, by interfering with the process we are also slowing the course of their learning – if they don’t learn one way, since we are meddling with things, something even more challenging might come their way to finally open their eyes.

We should remain compassionate and understanding of the fact that we can’t judge the circumstances of others until we have filled their shoes, as things always look different from the outside looking in, but if we are unable to help, it may very well be a sign that we need to leave things alone. We can offer emotional support, and let our friends know we care about them; if we can relieve their hardship temporarily without passing judgment, and give them a chance to get on their feet, we should be ready and honored to do so, but in no way, shape or form, should we feel guilty for not walking their paths for them or for not having the means to help.

Allowing others to live their own destinies can be an uncomfortable experience, partly because it forces us to relinquish the control we have over people and things around us, which is a rarely acknowledged part of our security blanket. That’s when faith comes in – in the greater scheme of things, there are no wrong paths; there are just paths that aren’t right for us and our purpose. The roads others walk might appear wrong in our judgment of things, but they might be exactly what their souls need in order to evolve.

We are the captains of our own ships, but when it comes to the route of other vessels, we must trust in the fact that somewhere deep inside they are aware of their own destinations, and perfectly capable to sail through the crashing waves.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Failure -- A Valuable Assistant

“There are no failures – just experiences and your reactions to them.” ~ Tom Krause

“I have not failed,” Thomas Edison once said, “I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” And he did indeed, but once he finally succeeded, he came up with one of the most valuable inventions of our time – incandescent lights.

In all truth, Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb – someone else had patented a similar invention fifty years earlier – but contrary to the first light bulbs which only lasted 150 hours, Edison was able to create a product which lasted 1200 hours, only about 300 hours less than the light bulbs we use today. Edison tried thousands of different substances in making the filament of an incandescent light bulb until he found one material that lasted long enough to make the light bulb cheap enough to sell. In 1879, he finally succeeded. He made a light bulb using carbonized filaments from cotton thread. The light bulb burned for two days. His bulbs were first installed on the steamship "Columbia" and later in a New York City factory. The first public demonstration of the Thomas Edison's incandescent lighting system was in December 1879, when the Menlo Park laboratory complex was electrically lighted. Edison spent the next several years creating the electric industry.

The light bulb wasn’t Thomas Edison’s only project. He worked on inventions previously discovered but never completed, and initiated other ideas which he never perfected himself but helped future inventors in their own work. His career was brightened by successful breakthroughs, but also laden with many failures, which he refused to acknowledge as such. In one of his famous statements, he asserted that there is no such thing as failure, but just results; some of those results are just not what one hopes to see.

And indeed he was right. The most fascinating part of his thinking is that he recognized the value of each experience as a step toward perfection. Each time we try something, our brain stores the data from our efforts and organizes it in two lists – one list of what works and one of what we should avoid in future attempts. Understanding what will help us succeed is important, but we shouldn’t underestimate the value of being familiar with whatever will hinder our journey – once we know what doesn’t work, we can bypass the obstacle at the next try, and reach the goal by a process of elimination.

Fear of failure is the greatest enemy of innovation, and it is quite common to choose stagnation over rejection. What we often don’t realize is that idleness caused by fear is the only failure one can encounter. Failure is the personal assistant to success.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Anicet's Story

I’d like to share a story which I hope will inspire you as much as it inspired me.
It is a story of courage, determination and, most of all, faith. It is the story of a man named Anicet, who came to America to follow a dream.

His family and friends in Africa had helped him gather enough money for the trip and a short stay, but with poor language skills and no references he was having a hard time securing a job. His dream was to become a Christian minister, so he was hoping to find a job in a church, and was willing to take on even the most menial job.

We agreed to meet, simply to have a meditation together and talk further. We scheduled to meet at 9:00 pm two days later.

The evening we were supposed to meet, he called me around about 8pm and asked for directions to my house from a nearby drugstore. I only live about five minutes away from the drugstore, so I expected him to show up soon. Forty-five minutes went by. Finally, I went outside on the porch to see if I could see him driving through, thinking he had probably missed the house; I was only outside for a couple of minutes before my hands were frozen stiff; it was a very cold night in January, one of those very unusual times when Father Winter notices North Carolina is on the map. I was ready to go back inside, when in the distance I spotted a little black man, walking resolutely, and realized it was him. Anicet walked in, took his hat and jacket off, and politely asked for a glass of water. When I asked him why he hadn’t parked in front of my house, he simply replied that he didn’t have a car and had walked all the way from Cary.

I was stunned! North Raleigh is a good twenty to thirty minutes drive from Cary. He explained that he had left his house that afternoon, and that he wasn’t going to miss the meeting just because he didn’t have a car. We talked that night, and then met again on a few more occasions. The last time I saw him he said that he had understood what God had wanted him to understand - his mission, he said, was to find a way to preach about the unity of all religions.

After that, I didn’t hear from him for about a year. He called me again this past summer, just to update me on his progress.

He did, finally, find a job in a church in Cary, and the gentleman who hired him also helped him enroll in several courses, including one to improve his language skills and a few theological ones. He is very happy now, and feels that he is working toward the vision that God sent him.

What truly touched me about his story are the strength of his faith and the fire of determination inside of him, as he overcame tangible obstacles to follow his dreams, and fought against all odds to achieve what he believed in.

Sometimes, when I don’t feel motivated, all I have to do is think about this little great man, about his courage and faith, and suddenly I feel like I can get a lot more accomplished in my day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Embracing the Age of Aquarius

The past few years, we have heard a lot of bits and pieces of information about shifting from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. Although most of us are familiar with the zodiac signs and their basic characteristics, the majority of us are not erudite enough in astrological matters to really understand what it means.

Not too long ago I decided to consult with a very reputable local astrologer about this, and we went over different aspects of celestial patterns. He explained that the age we are living into right now is the Age of Pisces, a window of about 2000 years which started about a century before the birth of Christ.

The Age of Pisces was the age of religions and patriarchal structures, which took over to balance the feminine energy which had been dominating the scene during pre-Christian times. Within those 2000 years, the world’s three leading prophets, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha, were born, and in that same time period the energy shifted from fluid Goddess energy to linear masculine energy. Rational thinking took over instinct, and judgment shifted from the heart to the conscious mind. Gradually, patriarchal structures were created and infused with power, both socially and spiritually. Corporations were created, global thinking shifted toward material solidity, and control became the name of the game.

The two-thousand-year time span of the Age of Pisces is now drawing to an end, and even though many have associated the start of the new age with the year 2012, it is in reality hard to predict accurately when it will occur. With the end of the Age of Pisces and all that it represents, we can expect a breakdown of patriarchal structures on all levels, and if we pay attention, we’ll see that this is already happening: the fall of our economy is one of the symptoms of the crumbling, while the growing interest in soul-searching and philanthropic efforts indicate a shift back toward the heart center.

It is quite interesting that the sign of Aquarius is represented by Ganymede, a Trojan prince who in Greek myth was kidnapped and granted immortal life to be the bearer of the cups for the gods. However, Ganymede poured the nectar of the gods upon earth, and the divine drink was evenly sprinkled on the mortals below. This image embodies the concept of divine knowledge no longer being kept secret, but flowing gradually to empower everyone. Another very interesting symbol for Aquarius is the set of two parallel wavy lines which appear to be water but are in fact two snakes. Snake energy was revered in pre-Christian times as healing energy, and the image of two snakes coiled around a cross is still used today to represent medicine.

So, what does this all mean? We are moving through the motions of a shift which will bring profound changes, and although most periods of transition are unsettling, balance is always reached in the end. It’s a time to say good-bye to fear tactics and rigid thinking, especially now that the remnants of the old energy are desperately trying to cling tight as the foundations are falling in. We can either ride the wave toward the heart center or remain stuck to a mindset that’s destined to fail. The choice is up to us.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Gift of a Second Chance

When a powerful quake hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, Benito Revolus was hospitalized after being stabbed during a fight over money. When the ceiling caved in, Benito barely had the time to realize what was happening before the top section of his bed collapsed on him, piercing through his left thigh and pinning him to the ground. In an unexpected strike of good fortune, the top bunk shielded him and provided a pocket of breathing space, allowing him to survive. Benito was trapped under rubble and nailed to the floor by one of the legs of the bunk bed for five days. He lost a copious amount of blood and had nothing to eat or drink, but he survived.

Throughout his ordeal, one thing kept his mind occupied – while he thought he was waiting to die, Benito spent the time reflecting on his life, and made a solemn promise to God: If he made it out alive, he would change his life. His first step, he said, would be to forgive all old scores. He thought of his mother and he felt sorry for the pain he was causing her. He didn’t want to leave this life before accomplishing something good, and twenty-three years just hadn’t been enough to get on the ball.

After dawn on the fifth day, on Saturday, his prayers were answered. Benito heard the sound of a hammer being tapped, so he reached for a rock and used it to tap back three times. For the next several hours he heard people frantically working around him; the sound of jackhammers and circular saws broke the maddening silence, and around 4:00 pm Benito was free. The face of a young firefighter appeared smiling through the rubble and told him in broken French that he was going to be okay. Benito’s survival baffled physicians, as the maximum time estimated for someone severely injured and bleeding profusely is three days, but Benito didn’t seem too surprised, as he never completely lost hope. His faith had kept him alive.

Someone once told me that life is but a contract we sign before being born. The “contract” is stipulated upon estimation of the time necessary to learn the lessons we came to assimilate, but in Benito’s case, thankfully, it came with a clause. During his twenty-three years of life, he had probably never thought about all the things he needed to accomplish; most of us never do. We wake up in the morning and go about our day mechanically, often making the wrong choices, always thinking that we have plenty of time left to “fix things up”, when in reality, each day could be our last.

We live with anxiety, we hold grudges and focus on things that aren’t important, while we could instead use the time to let go of unneeded baggage, to forgive and forget, and to learn how to live a meaningful life. We invest most of our energy toward amassing wealth of the wrong kind, even if when the time to go finally comes we can’t take any of those things with us. As an old Italian proverb reminds us, at the end of the game the king and the pawn go back into the same box.

Life is too short to live or die with regrets. We can’t go back in time to change the past, but we do have the power to change today.

Benito’s story was found at:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Purpose of Anger

“The angry people are those who are most afraid.” ~ Dr. Robert Anthony

When I spoke with a friend, yesterday, she mentioned that if she could get rid of anger, her world would be perfect. After I hung up the phone, I gave her affirmation some thought. Indeed, anger is a powerful force, able to blind and push even the most leveled person toward the unthinkable. In classic literature, anger was one of the beasts Dante Alighieri met at the entrance of hell, and in modern times many have pictured anger as a dark manifestation of human nature which must be overpowered if one is to rise above earthly chains toward the light.

Superficial anger is easy to manage. All one needs to do is to take a deep breath, choose to remain calm in spite of occurrences, and find the time, sooner rather than later, to deal with the feelings. It is a little more difficult, however, to deal with old anger; not necessarily because we can’t suppress it, but mostly because we can’t identify its source.

Anger is not a disease, but it is a symptom, and it should not be ignored. Our minds let us know, in a powerful way, that some issues we have dealt with are still in need of resolution and closure. If we ignore the request, the wounded self is forced to employ stronger means in the desperate attempt to communicate with the conscious mind. If ignored again, anger turns inward, and it manifests into physical and emotional illness.

In the beginning of a crisis, anger is a powerful reservoir of energy, and it allows us to stay above the waters of self-pity. Once the crisis has passed, however, anger must be allowed to leave. If not released, it gets stored into a subconscious file and forgotten, but just because it is forgotten does not mean that it is deleted; when we least expect it, the file is opened, and what happened yesterday blends with the experiences of today.

Although the reasons that trigger anger can be countless, the root of most of them is fear – fear of being alone, of rejection, of poverty, of not being loved and accepted. When trying to “pull” and “delete” the anger files from the drawer, it helps if we can be honest with ourselves and push aside feelings of guilt. We might be angry because we feel constricted in our lifestyle, or because we feel we deserve more, or even because we feel victimized or not recognized for our talents; since early childhood we are taught that good boys and girls don’t complain and we must be happy with the little we receive, even if it doesn’t feel like enough. Being “greedy” and “ungrateful” triggers guilt; in return, guilt causes us to become angry at ourselves for not being good.

Anger should therefore be honored for its purpose, asked to come to the surface and felt in every cell of our being before we can send it on its way with gratitude. As for most other things, it is helpful if we try to fill the void caused by the removal of each anger file by planting something positive to ensure that the vacancy won’t be filled by more unwanted energy.

Anger is not our enemy, but rather it is a friend screaming to be acknowledged and heard.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Unknown Face of Voodoo

In the aftermath of Pat Robertson’s self-righteous accusation that Haiti is victim of a powerful quake as a result of a pact its inhabitants made with the devil, there is only one thing I would like to say: “Pat Robertson, you know not of which you speak.”

Many have already had the opportunity to assess Pat Robertson’s failing mental state after New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, and the good ole faith healer, who claims to be able to stop hurricanes with his prayers, had the nerve to say that New Orleans was destroyed because of widespread sin in America. Where was Pat Robertson on August 29, 2005, I ask, and why didn’t he give us all an example of his power against the elements instead than passing judgment?

And now he is at it again. If his opinion about the destruction of the twin towers being caused by homosexuality and promiscuity wasn’t enough, he has now topped his act with the assumption that Haiti was destroyed because of its historical ties to the Voodoo religion. Although Voodoo – or Vodou, as the religion is known in Haiti – is still practiced behind closed doors, the country is almost entirely Catholic, thanks to the French influence in the area.

At this point I would like to throw in my two cents – not about Pat Robertson’s obvious faux pas and lack of sensitivity, but about the fact that he associated Voodoo with devil worship. Although Hollywood has done an amazing job demonizing the religion, most of what is routinely shown in films is just screen fiction selling to thrillseekers.

First of all, there is a difference between Voodoo and what is commonly referred to as Hoodoo. While Hoodoo is the practical wealth of “recipes” used to fix different problems humans are afflicted by, Voodoo is a monotheistic religion not too different from Catholicism. Not too far from Pentecostal faith either, if one cares to compare the two.

Voodoo was born when Yoruba and Catholic beliefs merged together after African slaves were transported to the Americas. Voodooists – or Vodouisants – believe in one Creator, God, also known in some traditions as Olodumare. The Orishas personify the Catholic Saints and they are considered God’s helpers. The highest of all Orishas is Obatala, also known as Oxala or Ochala in some traditions, and he embodies the figure of the Christ.

Even if the image of a doll being jabbed by pins is what jumps to the mind the moment the word Voodoo is uttered, many Voodoo practitioners focus their work on doing good and wouldn’t harm a hair on anyone. Most petitions (prayers) are made to request healing and peace, abundance and love, balance and justice - earthly and divine.

I grew up in a family circle strongly influenced by the Voodoo religion, yet I have never harmed a soul. My upbringing taught me to respect all religions, especially those I don’t understand or know much about, and to appreciate the beauty found in all systems of belief. If anything, Voodoo taught me about the duality of humans and the existence of a side of good even in those who come through as completely rotten.

Pat Robertson, I hope you are taking notes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Down to the Single Units

“When you're feeling down just hold your head up high and don't think of the whole big thing. Just focus on doing one thing at a time. You'll see that you will accomplish a lot, if not everything at the end of the day.” ~ Author unknown

Occasionally, when I go shopping for groceries I also purchase a small bouquet of flowers to display on the kitchen table. There is something special about fresh flowers in the winter – their fragrance can turn the grayest of days into a sudden burst of spring.

Yesterday I brought home a bouquet of mixed field flowers. I removed the wrap and looked for scissors to trim the ends. I couldn’t find the “good” pair, so I had to settle for the ones that don’t cut too well. When I tried to cut the stems they only bent, so I tried to apply more pressure to see if it would help; again, the stems bent a bit more but still remained attached to the flowers. I gave up my original thought of cutting the bunch of them and focused on severing one at a time. When I tried to cut just one, the blades of the scissors went through the single stem like a knife cutting butter. If I had followed that approach from the beginning, instead than trying to get all the stems cut at the same time, I would have finished sooner rather than later.

Many of us approach most tasks in the same fashion, only to become discouraged and overwhelmed by the mere thought of getting started. We try to tackle the whole array of tasks as a collective unit, and end up just getting irritated by our inability to succeed.

Huge undertakings are seen as a wall looming in front of us, which will suck our life energy as we try to either climb over it or remove it from our path. It is significant to remember that no matter how solid the wall might appear, it is not a large single unit we are powerless against, but rather a group of many smaller units connected together to form a larger structure. We might not be able to move the wall from the path as a whole, but we are certainly strong enough to remove one brick at a time.

When we feed energy toward removing the whole wall, we set ourselves up for failure and create an excuse why we shouldn’t even attempt. If, instead, we pace ourselves and focus on removing one brick at a time, we are able to direct our energy where it will make a difference.

We could push the wall for hours without moving it an inch and easily fall into the grip of frustration, but we can instantly see the brick taken from its original position and moved where we want it. With each brick that we move, we wall is less threatening. Small successes can add up and trigger strong feelings of self-satisfaction and worth, as we are able to see results of our applied effort almost immediately.

So whether we are facing cutting the stems of a bouquet of flowers, removing debris from our path, losing unwanted weight, or facing a daunting task of any nature, it is helpful if we break the structure of what we are hoping to conquer into small units that we can focus on one at a time. By doing so we are not neglecting the whole, but rather we are ensuring that each part of it is properly addressed and polished to perfection.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Business of Making Time

“One always has time enough, if one will apply it well.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you are like me, there are more things you enjoy doing than there are hours in a day to get them done…or so I thought until not too long ago.

With several projects on the burner, three children, a husband, and a family business, I always felt as if I was running circles around myself, and one day I told a friend that I wished days could be made of 48 hours each. Her answer to me was: “Days are actually longer than you think they are. Why don’t you try making a list of things you need to do and things you enjoy doing? Write beside each of them how long it takes to accomplish the task, and then calculate how many hours you are awake each day.”

After I hung up the phone, I thought of what my friend had said, and intrigued enough, I sat down with pen and paper in hand. I decided to not include the three hours after I first wake up, since I’m usually blogging and catching up with e-mail at that time; if I count hours from 9:30, which is approximately the time I get back home after dropping my daughter off at school, until 11:30 at night, there are almost exactly fourteen hours of waking time I can use.

So, I started writing down all the things I do on the average day, and those I would like to do, at least some days. If I dedicate an hour a day to housework, an hour each to dinner preparation and homework, two hours of writing, three hours of miscellaneous stuff, an hour to get the kids to bed, one for dinner and clean-up, and even an hour for the occasional nap, I only need eleven hours of my day to get everything done.

Eleven hours?? If I only need eleven hours a day to feel at peace with my conscience and get things accomplished – including those I enjoy - that means I have another three hours to play with…where had 180 minutes of my day been hiding all this time? I started getting excited at the prospect of having three hours a day I could read or do anything I like, so I really gave the new schedule some thought.

No spiteful goblin had ever come to steal the extra minutes; I was the one who had stolen them from myself. Talk about a wake-up call! How had I not noticed the problem before? It occurred to me then that I had been attaching minutes here and there by lingering and procrastinating. It was time to bring this outrage to an end.

I made myself a list broken down in three time blocks – morning, afternoon and evening, and I plugged the different tasks into the slots corresponding to the time of day I normally try to get those things accomplished. I couldn’t believe it! Even after getting everything on my list checked off, I was left with forty-five minutes of free time in the morning, thirty minutes in the evening, and an hour and a half in the afternoon.

Someone once told me that when you want to do something you have to make time for it. I strongly suspect now that this person had talked to my friend.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Stepping Stones to Hope

Good morning, everybody!

As many friends from GoLo already know, last year I started a group called A Blog for Hope, a local effort to help members of the GoLo online community who are struggling in the harsh economy.

This morning, a twin group to Blog for Hope was born. Stepping Stones to Hope was created with two goals in mind - raising funds for Blog for Hope, and providing a space where donors can claim a little spot for themselves or others they care about to be remembered in love.

When a donation is sent to Blog for Hope, the name of the donor will be "engraved" on one of the stepping stones, and added to our lawn. Donors can also choose to have a different name on the stone, such as names of friends they wish to honor, or loved ones they would like to remember.

We are also creating a Rainbow Path to honor our pets who have departed. If you would like to do something special to commemorate your pet, please send us a photo (optional) and the pet's name, and a special stepping stone will be added.

This group is still under construction, so please bear with us as we try to work out the details.

Details on donation can be found on the group's main page,

Although donations will strictly help members of the GoLo online community, I feel that others can benefit from the joy of being able to commemorate their loved ones, thus the decision to share this information outside of the GoLo community was reached.

Thank you for your support, and may you be blessed in all your endeavors. :-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Learning from a Goose -- Beyond Racial Boundaries (repost)

When I mindlessly perused the news a few weeks ago, one story particularly caught my eye: A goose in Hereford, Texas, is perfectly comfortable hanging around with a herd of goats. As peculiar and seemingly insignificant as this bit of news might appear, it is powerful enough to remind us of some of our shortcomings. As members of the human race, we still struggle with the challenges of living with one another, and although racial tensions have superficially eased since the black and white communities have integrated, a lot of people still simmer with lack of acceptance under their differently colored skin.

A lot of civil rights leaders have worked very hard in trying to mend the differences, but in many cases they have done more damage than good. People have felt pushed into a corner, obligated to give up treasured traditions in favor of exotic beliefs, celebrations or fashion fads, and that has created a widespread sense of resentment. Feeling powerless in the face of losing their own heritage and identity, many have responded with anger and hatred. With great intentions in their hearts, civil rights leaders have responded by feeding the flame of outrage already burning on the other side, and by pointing out the differences that separate the cultures.

In an era of politically correct talk and affirmative action, it is very common to hear labels chosen by the very same people who feel singled out. The black community still refers to itself as African-American, the Hispanic community as Hispanic-American, and the Asian community as Asian-American. Something is wrong with that picture: by labeling the cultures we promote separateness. Americans are Americans, regardless of their heritage. My children were born in America and call themselves American, even if their heritage is entirely Italian and British. Maybe, if the politically correct way of labeling people applies to the whole, they should call themselves Italian-British-Americans. If we truly look at the origin of things, then the only true Americans are the native Indians; the rest of us are just imports, no matter when our boats approached the shores of our beautiful country.

Racial acceptance and peaceful co-habitation have to begin within ourselves. If we feel that we can contribute something to society and to each other through the beauty of our individual qualities, then we can move forward and build a new foundation for our children’s future. There is beauty within every culture, and good that can be found within the heart of every person, regardless of race, creed or financial status. As intelligent and reasonable human beings, we need to start with ourselves and lead by example. We preach that the best way to teach our children is by praising their efforts and focusing on their good qualities, yet adults have no problem in lashing out at one another over issues that shouldn’t even exist.

By focusing on what brings us together, rather than what sets us apart, we can open a new door to united and symbiotic living which can only positively affect the future of our nation, and set an example to the rest of the world. And when we forget how we should relate to each other, may God bless the Goose.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How Should We Help? A Discussion on International Aid

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” ~ Chinese proverb

The past day and a half, communication mediums have been saturated with heartbreaking news of the powerful quakes which have rattled the tiny country of Haiti, a nation already ridden with extreme poverty and dire living conditions. The international community has grandiosely responded to the crisis – from foreign governments pledging aid, to celebrities nudging their fans to pitch in, and to supplies being promptly delivered, everyone is hoping the suffering of the people will be eased, if only a little.

A friend I was discussing the terrible event with, yesterday, suggested something which made a lot of sense. It would require a bit of effort to work out the logistics, but in the end, if the approach was seriously considered and implemented, it would better the Haitian conditions of living, and would boost the economy of other countries involved with international relief.

As most know all too well, the American economy is suffering; every day, more businesses – even some that have been successful and active for decades – are shutting down in our country. What if, my friend asked, our government and other foreign institutions could join efforts and provide a program to fund contractors willing to go and rebuild Haiti? If some of our failing businesses could be given an opportunity to keep their heads above the water by winning a contract abroad, some of their profits would filter back into our country, as opposed to just sending money into the black hole of relieving extreme hunger and poverty only temporarily.

If contractors were encouraged to go in and rebuild – or even unemployed police forces were offered the opportunity to go and sustain local public safety – there would be jobs available for Haitians who would no longer need a handout but would, instead, be able to be a part of the rebuilding process, soon able to take care of themselves. Currently, even without natural disasters, we feed people who, if given the right tools, could be feeding themselves. If the dilapidated shacks were replaced by acceptable housing, public safety was restored, and resorts built by investors interested in taking advantage of new opportunities, Haiti could become a prime spot for tourism.

Certainly, I am aware that such an accomplishment would require a lot of planning, but it is not impossible. This is an opportunity for Haiti to go through a second birth, and for some failing US businesses to be rescued from drowning into economic hardship our country is currently experiencing. Our world is changing, and our actions must shift with it. Handouts, no matter how generous or selfless, help things but don’t stimulate change. If we want to see true change, we need to get to a point where people aren’t just fed or clothed, but empowered with the self-confidence and the skills necessaries to make a difference for themselves.

It can be done. Everything can be done, if approached from the right angle and with an open mind. It is time we all come together to fix old problems using the suggestions of a new mindset. Only then we will be able to call ourselves an international community.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"What Kind of People Live in Your City?" - How Past Perceptions Affect Future Encounters (Repost)

An old man sat outside the walls of a great city. When travelers approached, they would ask the old man, "What kind of people live in this city?" The old man would answer, "What kind of people live in the place where you came from?" If the travelers answered, "Only bad people live in the place where we came from," the old man would reply, "Continue on; you will find only bad people here."

But if the travelers answered, "Good people live in the place where we came from," then the old man would say, "Enter, for here too, you will find only good people." ~Author unknown

I’ve always been fascinated by the patterns unfolding in people’s lives. Although most encounters appear accidental, the unique individuals we attract into our world are often the catalysts of a change, or are able to facilitate a deeper understanding of ourselves.

Our acceptance of the world is largely molded upon our initial caretakers. If, as children, we perceive the people we build bonds with as “good” people, we are more likely to develop satisfactory bonds with others as we move on through life. Since we are “trained” to see the good in others from early on, we tend to focus on the positive side of whoever we meet, and are able to break through their defensive barriers to find their core light. If, on the contrary, what we have been exposed to is negative, we tend to subconsciously replay those relationships with new people in the hope of understanding what went wrong. The new encounters are just a new spin on an old tale.

It is important to understand that what we perceive as positive or negative in someone might not necessarily reflect reality, but rather it might be the mirrored reflection of a past hurt, or a flashing sign indicating what needs healing within our inner selves.

When we feel the need to lash out at someone, it might be beneficial to stop and wonder why their behavior is upsetting us so much; is this person reflecting a part of our shadow-self we don’t want to face, or even better, is this person triggering an old memory of past hurts? There is a reason why certain people are crossing our path at this time. Their presence in our world – and the awareness they might be a catalyst for – could easily be a blessing in disguise

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Day in the Life of Mickey Mouse

“Life is a perpetual instruction in cause and effect.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday morning, my daughter unearthed an old Italian Disney comic book, and asked me to read it with her. In the story we read, Mickey Mouse and Goofy are hired by the local museum to go investigate the historical sinking of a large ship which tragically went down right after its inauguration. To get them back to the day of the event, Professor Zapotec invites them to use a time machine he invented himself.

Mickey and Goofy embark on their journey back in time, and “land” near the shipyard just a few hours before the inauguration. The story is ripe with adventure and imagination, and eventually, our heroes are able to save the ship, and the accident – due to a miscalculation on behalf of the engineer in charge of the design – is avoided.

When they return to the present, they walk out of the time machine to find a surprised Professor Zapotec who asks them the reason why they were inside of his invention. Mickey and Goofy exchange a confused look, and tell Zapotec of the mission he had assigned to them that same morning. When he seems to have no clue of what they are talking about, Mickey asks him to read the article in the old newspaper Zapotec had showed them before the trip. Professor Zapotec peruses the paper, but he cannot find the article. Since Mickey and Goofy changed the history of the event, the accident never happened, the story was never reported, and the professor never hired them to investigate the mystery.

The story was one of pure fantasy, but the concept behind it embraces a very important point – if we can heal what happened in the past, we no longer need to worry about the old hurt impacting our present and future.

Unresolved issues don’t just go away. Once they have slipped away from the grip of consciousness and are stored into our subconscious, they are no longer available to our memory, but they still impact our realities. Quite often, an honest reflection on the patterns in one’s life can cue the individual to the identity of the hidden triggers; if the triggers are lured to the surface, dealt with and released, the spell is broken – once healed, the old wound disappears and its effects on the present reality of the individual are erased.

Coming face to face with old wounds is an important step into dealing with our present problems. Until they are dealt with, past hurts continue to replay and affect our lives negatively, but the emotional charge associated with them is no longer as powerful as it was when we originally buried them into the chamber of our subconscious. Being our present circumstances different as well, once we bring them to the surface they no longer appear as big as they did when they occurred.

Inviting our past hurts back into awareness might not be as quick and simple as Mickey and goofy’s adventure in the time machine, but once the journey is complete we will be thrilled that the article was never written.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Boundaries of Compassion

"When everything is running smoothly...... Crisis managers create a crisis so they can manage it!" ~ Shine

Most people have met at least one crisis manager in their lives. They are, at times, fun to observe from a distance, as long as one can remain untouched by the drama they exude like cheap perfume.

I met my first crisis manager in middle school. Although she didn’t have much to complain about, this girl complained about everything under the sun. Sadly, she was so caught up into her drama that things really did happen to her. I don’t think she ever made anything up, but for a while I really thought she was the unluckiest person on the planet. Was fate really that unkind to her, or is it possible that she self-sabotaged to a degree? I thought about her a lot through the years, as she always seemed the poster child of misfortune, but as time went by, I met a few people who could give her a run for her money. To date, I think I have met four professional crisis managers. They are afflicted by everything – poor health, financial woes, betrayal and tragedies. Their afflictions don’t even spread through time, but rather they follow one another with no break in an invisible line-up.

By the time I met the fourth one, I started to really pay attention to their behaviors. They were always either elated or devastated, with no meeting point in between. The only way they could exist and be functional was if they were constantly running on high gear – anything less could not support their energy binges. The majority of us live on the safe island of the middle point; we get our blood pumping with a healthy dose of occasional drama and then go back to our normal lives. Crisis managers cannot do that. Attention feeds them and flatters them, and fills the inner void they try so desperately to hide. Intensity is the name of their game.

The only thing I found as a common denominator among the four crisis managers I’ve met is the fact that all of them had extreme childhoods. Two of them felt entirely rejected by the people they loved most, and treated with little respect and consideration – although their perception was not always based on facts, but was mostly dependent on the way they internalized information. Ultimately, all of them had come to realize that people responded differently to them whenever a crisis occurred. Crisis became their key to the door of connection to others. By dealing with the latest crisis, they sent out a shout to the world and showcased their warrior-like qualities.

We should always feel compassionate toward other people’s struggles, and be willing to sensibly help, but we still must remember that being compassionate doesn’t mean we need to jump into quicksand with them. Martyrs aren’t always heroes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Power of an Entire Ocean

“The world we are experiencing today is the result of our collective consciousness, and if we want a new world, each of us must start taking responsibility for helping create it.”
~ Rosemary Fillmore Rhea

Friday morning was the day I was scheduled to go for proctor training at my son’s high school. The training proved to be a painless, quick thing, and I was out of there by 11:00 am. Since on Fridays my daughter gets out at 12:15, I figured I had no time to go home and get anything done before picking her up, so I decided instead to go see my husband at work and have a cup of coffee. Being already past mid-morning – and knowing that their coffee pot is rarely on that late in the day – I thought of trying something I hadn’t tried before. I focused on the fact that when broken down to the atoms, our bodies and minds are merely electrical energy, protons and electrons connected together. I started thinking that if energy is electricity, then it can be transferred between two energetic fields.

Could I transfer my thought of wanting a cup of coffee to my husband and have the coffee ready when I got there? I wasn’t sure, but there was no harm in trying. I visualized myself and my husband as images on a computer screen, each made of thousands of little energetic dots. Then, I formed the thought of asking for coffee, and imagined the energy produced by the thought as being copied and pasted from one image to the other. After the image was “sent”, I focused on something completely different to allow the energy to be released.

Ten minutes later I pulled into the parking lot, quite curious to see if my little experiment had worked or not. The moment I opened the front door, my brother-in-law said: “I made a pot of coffee, it just finished brewing.”

So it had worked; not exactly as I had envisioned, but the final result was the same as the initial desire; my husband hadn’t made the coffee, but his brother did; in the end, the coffee was ready, no matter who had clicked the button on the coffee pot. This experiment taught me two things – for one, if we ask for something clearly enough we can receive it, but we can’t control the unfolding process. The second thing was the confirmation – at least personally - that whether it is because of physics, or because of mystical powers at work, we all share a collective consciousness. All of us have the power to tap into it, as long as we remain open and willing to acknowledge the fact that we are all part of the same whole, and all exactly the same.

So, here’s my project for the day: Today I will try to repeat the experiment, but instead than sending thoughts of coffee to my husband, I will send thoughts of achieved peace and well-being, and I will “paste” them to a world wide page. Imagine if each of us did that, even for just one day. Everything can make a difference, and everyone can send out an ounce of positive energy which can add up to form collective pounds of good.

One drop of water cannot do much, but billions of drops can give everyone the power of an entire ocean, and form a wave which can wash over the world as we know it and change it. There is certainly no harm in trying; so, are you willing to be the next drop?

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Smooth Seashells

“Constant dripping hollows out a stone.” ~ Lucretius

While I was cooking dinner last night, my daughter brought in the kitchen a small bag of seashells we found at the beach the past summer. She emptied the sack on the table and lined up the shells, largest to smallest. When I looked at the display, I noticed she had three large shells and several smaller ones, but while the little shells were mostly intact and still quite sharp at the edges, the larger shells were smooth and worn out, some of them missing parts.

I asked my daughter her opinion as to why the bigger shells were either broken or smooth at the edges, and her reply was instantaneous – the larger ones were thrown around with more force by the waves. Intrigued by her reply, I asked her why the waves would be harder on the larger shells, and her response to this question was that when something is small the wave takes it away, while “big things” stay where they are and the waves crash against them. That said, something else caught her attention and she left the kitchen. Of course, she also left me with a little food for thought.

Was she correct? Did the big shells get damaged more because they resisted the waves? Maybe, going along with the random and brilliant thinking trail only children can follow, Morgan had hit on something real.

To test her theory, I went into the backyard to the little stream that runs behind our house and looked at the rocks on the bed – the small ones had sharp edges, while the larger ones were smooth and hollow in spots where the water constantly trickles.

The rocks small enough to move with the water during a storm were only scattered around and not damaged, while the larger ones – too heavy to be moved but by a great volume of water – rested in place and could not escape the damage.

When we move with the flow, although we might feel scattered to the four winds and unable to maintain a steady ground, we are likely to come out of the storm unscathed – flexibility allows us to come through in one piece. On the contrary, when we are too stubborn to move, and we stand our ground even when the current pushes against us, we cannot avoid coming out of the storm with at least some visible damage.

Structures and mindsets that don’t allow room for change are doomed to fail, and it will be only a matter of time before even an apparently harmless trickle of opposing energy will carve a hole in their foundations.

I went back inside and carried a couple of those rocks with me to show my daughter, but mostly to remind myself that fluid thinking and wave-riding can be priceless tools we can’t afford to walk into the future without.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On the Path to Success

"Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin." Robert Collier

Focus oriented in the right direction is one of the fundamental tools necessary to overcome. If you think it sounds too easy and simple to be true, think again. Many people loudly broadcast their wishes, but their words rarely match their thoughts, beliefs and expectations. While one minute is spent wishing for something, the other 23 hours and 59 minutes of their day are intensely spent visualizing the impossibility of the wish.

Given the right impetus and desire, every wish can become reality. The only blocks are the lack of emotional charge necessary to propel our wishes forward, the mental image we implant into our subconscious, and whether we feel we deserve the blessing. The fuel is provided by emotions; without emotions behind them, thoughts are quickly discarded as unimportant. The Universal mind only works on images we create in our conscious minds, which get deposited into our subconscious minds. Once an image is perceived by our Higher Self, if fueled properly, it will manifest in our realities. So, if for one minute we claim to wish for something, but then we repeatedly saturate our subconscious with images of poverty, disease, fear and lack of love, our Higher-Self assimilates that poverty, disease, fear and lack of love are just what we want. Like actions, images speak louder than words. The last block is usually caused by misplaced guilt; if we feel guilty of something – even if we didn’t initiate the action – we believe we shouldn’t be rewarded.

When we wish for something but then expect to see its opposite manifest, our focus is centered on what we don’t want. As we think of what we don’t want, we form mental images of the misery that will come, and we bring those images to life by feeding them with our emotions. In order to be successful in attaining our wishes, we need to re-program our conscious minds, since that’s where the process starts. Our free will allows us to choose what to focus on, and once we make a choice, we need to concentrate every emotion we feel toward our goal, rather than toward the obstacles on our path.

Very often, our realities are impacted by old images buried deep into our subconscious. By allowing painful memories to rise up at a time when we can give them our full attention, we take away their power of being in charge of us. When we choose to face them, we can feel them, hear them, see them and even feed them emotions for a brief period of time, and then make a conscious effort to release them before shifting our focus toward the goals we wish to conquer. One thing is certain – those old wounds will not go away until we consciously decide to meet them face to face, honor them for their purpose in our lives and ask them to rest in peace. Once we are aware of their existence, it is imperative that don’t linger on their effects. We are in control of how long we will allow ourselves to think about them.

Changing our realities is possible, as long as our thoughts go hand in hand with our words. And if, by force of habit, we go down the wrong thinking path at any given time, we always have the option to stop, turn around and walk in a different direction.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let the Good Times Roll

As with Easter, the exact date of Mardi Gras changes every year. The celebration always falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and Ash Wednesday always occurs exactly 40 days before Easter, not counting the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter. In the Western hemisphere Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon in the Northern Hemisphere, following the vernal or spring equinox. Mardi Gras is part of the seasonal celebration called Carnival. The Carnival season begins on January 6th, known in the Christian world as Twelfth Night, or the Feast of the Epiphany, and it ends at midnight on Mardi Gras night, just in time for Ash Wednesday and the start of the forty-day season of Lent.

The celebration of Mardi Gras came to North America from Paris, where it had been celebrated since the Middle Ages, when French explorer Iberville and his men arrived in New Orleans in 1699. Many see a relationship to the ancient tribal rituals of fertility that welcomed the arrival of spring. A possible ancestor of the celebration was the Lupercalia, a festivity held in mid-February in Rome. The early Church fathers, realizing that it was impossible to divorce their new converts from their pagan customs, decided instead to direct them into Christian channels. Thus Carnival was created as a period of merriment that would serve as a prelude to the penitential season of Lent.

In the late 1700s pre-Lenten balls and fĂȘtes were held in New Orleans. Under French rule masked balls flourished, but were later banned by the Spanish governors. The prohibition continued when New Orleans became an American city in 1803, but by 1823, the Creole populace prevailed upon the American governor, and balls were again permitted. Four years later street masking was legalized. World War I canceled Carnival in 1918-1919, but Mardi Gras survived this struggle, along with the Prohibition of the Twenties and the Great Depression of the Thirties. In the Forties a new spirit of Mardi Gras was ushered in, pausing only for the United States' involvement overseas. Before World War II canceled four Carnivals, the first women's parade graced the streets of New Orleans with the Krewe of Venus' inaugural pageant in 1941. New Orleans' favorite son, Louis Armstrong, returned home to ride as King of the Zulu parade in 1949. Carnival's growth continued throughout the Seventies, and increasingly attracted tourism to the area.

In Europe –Particularly in Italy and France - celebrations similar to Mardi Gras are known as “Carnival”, a winter festival celebrated with parades, masquerade balls, entertainment, music, and parties. Children throw confetti at each other; mischief and pranks are also quite common. Despite its roots in pagan festivals and traditions, Carnival was adapted to fit into the Catholic rituals. Although carnival is actually one date, in Venice and some other places in Italy the carnival celebrations and parties may begin a couple weeks before.

The 2010 date for carnival is February 16 but celebrations in Venice and many parts of Italy will run from February 6 (or even in late January) through February 16, 2010.

Information included in this post was found at:,,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On a Date with Myself

“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Today all my children are back in school. While I was talking to my editor last night, our discussion led to a list of different things I need to work on and deliver to her soon. “The next few days I will have the chance to work on some of these tasks,” I told her, “but not tomorrow, since I am taking the day for myself.”

After the words escaped my lips, I wondered how they sounded to others. I am quite excited to be working on the list she wants me to work on, and it really does not feel like work at all, but after two weeks of refereeing three kids home on winter break, I think I deserve a few hours for myself.

I remember there was a time in my life when I felt guilty about taking personal time. My motto was to run and run, and then to run some more to make sure everything and everyone were taken care of. Being a nurturer by nature, I thought that was the only way to manage things around me, until one day I started feeling sick. When I finally made myself go to the doctor, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease – I hadn’t felt well for a couple of weeks and I was overly-fatigued, but having small children an a million other things I routinely took care of, I never gave even a tiny thought about slowing down. The doctor was horrified by my lack of care toward my own health, and sent me home with a two-week treatment of antibiotics and a lecture.

I recovered from the illness fairly quickly, but I also made a pledge – never again would I allow myself to get so run-down before paying attention. My outlook on a lot of things changed in those few weeks; I needed to be there for the kids, and the house, and my husband, and our business, but who would take care of it all if something happened to me and I had to be hospitalized? Was I so stuck-up to think they would all be on a fast ride to hell if I wasn’t there to check on everything? Of course not; someone else would be taking care of things – maybe in a different way, but they would take care of everything nonetheless. Another thought crossed my mind…could it be the opposite? Could it be that I valued others more than I valued myself?

It didn’t take me long to realize that in order to take care of others I had to first take care of myself. That included not getting emotionally involved in the personal dramas of others – as my friend Dena so beautifully put it, I became compassionately detached. I still cared for everybody, but I also cared for my own well-being. After all, only a skilled swimmer in good shape could save a drowning man; if one jumped in the water without being able to swim, or allowed the other person to drag them down in their panic, there would be not just one, but two people drowning. That day long ago, I learned that if I really want to be there for others I must first be there for myself.

So, today myself and I are having a date. I’m planning to go browse new titles at a bookstore in the sweet company of a tall cup of Starbucks’ dark roast until it’s time to pick my daughter up from school. In just a couple of hours, I’ll be happy to be Mom again, but for just a little while it will be fun to just be me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Deep Freeze

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.” ~ Albert Camus

No relief from the cold is in the forecast for North Carolina any time soon. With temperatures dipping into the teens at night, and barely reaching the low forties during the day, many have retreated into their homes and into themselves.

During a different cold spell a few years ago, I complained to a friend about the freezing temperatures, and her reply to me was that the earth and the plants needed to rest and regenerate. After doing a little research, I indeed found out that many plants cut off their water intake and go dormant during the winter months. In this time of inertia, they get the opportunity to regenerate within.

As of late, many of us have been cut off the traditional sources of energetic feeding, and they have come to feel isolated and forgotten. With the job situation deteriorating, and average incomes suddenly becoming less than average, our connection to our supply of “water” has been interrupted. Not only that – weakened by economic hardship, many relationships have cracked under pressure and fatally broken down. Many are facing the long winter alone and without the means to weather the elements.

We have become so programmed in our thinking by society and advertisements, that we can no longer see the difference between what we have and who we are. The two are so closely associated in our minds, that if we don’t have enough, we feel that we are nobody worth caring for.

The first reactions to having our external supply of “nutrients” and energy cut off are self-pity and anger, but once those stages have run their course, we realize we still exist, we still feel and we are still loved – by others at least. Each of us has hidden potential which often remains untapped until we need to come up with new strategies to survive. It’s through hardship that we find our true friends, and it is by going within that we learn how to function more effectively without.

The winter might be long and harsh, but spring will come around again; when the timing is right, our connection to external supplies will be restored, and what we have discovered during our dormant phase will help us blossom even more vibrantly.
Winter is a time to burrow inside of ourselves and learn who we are; it’s a time to discover the depth of our potential and the identity of our weaknesses; more importantly, it is a time to realize that our growth is not hindered by an unexpected cold snap.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Meeting Befana

January 6th marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as the day of Epiphany. In Italy – and in Italian communities around the world - this occurrence is also known as “Befana”.

La Befana is a character in Italian folklore who delivers presents to children throughout Italy, in a similar way to Santa Claus. In popular folklore Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of January 6th, and fills their socks with candy and presents if they are good, or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad.

Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food for the Befana. She is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl. She is often smiling and carries a bag filled with candy, gifts, or both.

Christian legend has it that La Befana was approached by the Magi (or Three Kings), a few days before Christ's birth. They asked for directions to where the baby Jesus was, but she did not know. She provided them with shelter for a night, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village with the most pleasant home. They invited her to join them on the journey to find the baby Jesus, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework. Later, La Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out the astrologers and Jesus. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the baby Jesus. She leaves all the good children toys and candy, while the bad children get coal or bags of ashes.In the center of Rome, in Piazza Navona, a popular market, the Fiera della Befana takes place each year between Christmas and the Epiphany. There toys, sugar, “charcoal” and candies are sold for the Roman children.

In other parts of the world where a vibrant Italian community exists, traditions involving La Befana may be observed and shared or celebrated with the wider community. In Toronto (CA), for example, a Befana Choir shows up on Winter Solstice each December to sing in the Kensington Market Festival of Lights parade. Women, men, and children dressed in La Befana costume and nose sing love songs to serenade the sun to beckon its return. The singing hags gather in the street to give candy to children, to cackle and screech to accordion music, and to sing in every key imaginable as delighted parade participants join in the cacophony. Sometimes, the Befanas dance with parade goers and dust down the willing as parade goers walk by.

Some of this information was found on

Friday, January 1, 2010

Have a Joyful New Year!

Good morning everybody, and a joyful New Year to you and your families!

As 2010 has finally opened the doors to a whole new chapter, let's do our best to focus our energy on ushering in the right guests. With the hardship many have encountered in 2009, it is normal to feel a little apprehensive and discouraged, but we should at least try to invest our efforts and thoughts on the things we want, rather than on those we don't want in our lives.

As we peek our heads out and greet the newly born 2010, I wish all of you a joyful New Year instead than a happy one. Happiness is dependable on the influence of external factors, and it fluctuates with the winds of fate; joy is a stable refuge in the midst of the storm, and nothing can dim its light.

So, have a joyful New Year, and as someone posted on my profile on a different site, may 2010 be a wonderful new journey, one we won't travel alone but as one.