I Kissed a Frog

Not really, but according to the book I just finished, kissing frogs is the equivalent of going after your dreams, the things that make you happy and fulfilled.  The frog is the very thing holding you back, so why should you kiss it?  Because you can always transform something negative into something positive and change your life forever.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Kiss That Frog by Brian Tracy.

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.” —Bruce Barton

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” —from John Milton’s poem “Paradise Lost”

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.  There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.” —Orison Swett Marden

The final quote I want to share comes from a middle grade novel I just finished reading called A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.  It’s funny how once you start focusing on an idea, the more it shows up in your life in different places.

“It’s as simple and difficult as that.  Sad memories don’t just come in ice cream, you know.  Everything you touch, everything you smell, everything you taste, every picture you see—all of that has the potential to call up a sad memory.  You can’t choose what comes up first.  But you can choose to replace it with something good.  I choose to think on the good parts.”

May positive thoughts bloom in your mind instead of weeds 🙂

 

I Am Responsible

I’m reading a lot of books these days, trying to stay warm 🙂  One of them is Kiss That Frog: 12 Great Ways to Turn Negatives into Positives in Your Life and Work by Brian Tracy.  He tackles all the layers of self that actually hold us back.  One concept that both intrigues and mystifies me is the idea of taking responsibility for everything that happens in your life.

He challenges you to take any event, especially ones you feel unhappy about, and say to yourself, “I am responsible.”  In doing that, you are less likely to place blame on others, which creates negative energy that just stews inside of you.  You acknowledge that at least some part of you created the situation you’re in.  When you do that, it’s easier to let go and move on.  It’s challenging because who wants to admit they were wrong? But it is also surprisingly freeing.

The part that gets me is that it seems like there are some events in life that are simply out of our control that we did not expect, ask for, or deserve.  How do you take responsibility for those things?  In most cases we can usually admit to being at least 1 or 2 % responsible.  But the point is not to point fingers or place blame, even at yourself.  It’s to take control of your life and move forward.  We can always accept responsibility for how situations make us feel and how we react to them.  And for particularly difficult situations where we don’t feel at all responsible, we can also move forward through forgiveness.

I’ve always wondered how victims of violent crimes for instance have been able to forgive their aggressors.  It seems like forgiving such acts would be letting them off the hook for doing something wrong.  I was blown away when the author talked about how forgiveness is primarily a selfish act.  Meaning, it is something you do for yourself to find peace in a situation so you can move on.  After all, staying angry at someone hurts you more than it hurts them.

It’s amazing the kinds of things we go through in life, each of us living out our own unique story.  Sometimes it takes a lot of courage just to face the day.  But we are no doubt creating our own reality by everything we think, feel, and do.  And if we can manage to break through those barriers from the past that are holding us back, just imagine what we can become.  The very best YOU possible.

“Each day a new world opens itself up to you.  And all the worlds you are…gather into one world called You where You decide what each world and each story and each ending will finally be.”  –Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming

 

Making Mandalas

 

I first heard about mandalas from one of my best friends.  It seemed like a great way to combine two of our favorite pastimes: art and meditation. A mandala is a unique and intricate symbol representing the universe.  The word means “circle” in Sanskrit.  The symbol is used in both Hinduism and Buddhism as a meditation tool as well as for other ritual and spiritual purposes.

The idea is to gain clarity and focus by coloring the design with a specific color pattern in mind.  You may want to work on one as a way to relax or to gain insight into a particular situation in your life.

You can find free mandala patterns online to print and color.

Recently, I met up with my neighbor for an artist day.  What began as a day of mosaic making turned into a day of coloring mandalas.  And it turns out it was just what my soul needed anyway.

This time, I bought a coloring book of nature mandalas by Creative Haven with artwork by Marty Noble.  I chose this one because I liked the idea that each page focuses on one element or animal in nature.  I decided that I would dedicate each page I color to someone in my life as a way of wishing them positive thoughts and healing energy.  After choosing my special person, I then decide which animal totem will represent them and reflect their experience.  It’s lots of fun!  I’m looking forward to presenting each page in person.  Of course, there is personal benefit as well.  You can even dedicate pages to yourself, if you like 🙂

There’s one ritual involving mandalas that I find particularly fascinating and in keeping with the spirit of meditation.  A group of Tibetan Buddhist monks create a giant mandala made of colored sand.  They spend countless hours making it, and then as soon as they finish it, they destroy it.  This is supposed to represent the transitory nature of life on earth.  It’s a great concept and goes along with my word for the year: change.

As an artist, I tend to have trouble letting go of anything I create.  In fact, in life, I tend to hold onto things as well!  One day perhaps I will be brave enough to destroy a piece of art after I create it, but for now, I think I’ll stick to coloring mandalas 😉

 

 

Sidenote:  It turns out labyrinths are also a type of mandala.  To learn more about labyrinths, check out my post here.

Change=Story=Life

Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN

It’s amazing how after you pick a word for the year, it keeps showing up in your daily life.  For instance, I started reading a book on the craft of writing, Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, before the holidays.  When I picked it up after the new year, I opened it up to the chapter where I left off.  It’s titled, “Courting Conflict, the Agent of Change.”  And there’s my word staring back at me 😉

But it was just what I needed to read.  It’s a reminder of what makes a story.

“Story is about change, which results only from unavoidable conflict.”

Ironically, in real life, “The brain is wired to stubbornly resist change, even good change.”

It’s a great paradox.  We avoid change to stay comfortable, yet we long for new experiences.  Story is one way for us to experience something without actually having to live it.  It’s also a way for us to prepare ourselves for a given situation, in case at some future point we find ourselves in that same situation.

So as a writer, don’t be afraid of putting your characters into the most dire straits.  The greater the risk, the greater the reward, and it creates the ultimate suspense!

But what about in life?  Sure, we want to avoid conflict, but at the same time, we don’t want life to pass us by, never doing the things we dream of doing, just because we’re afraid of change.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.”  –Anatole France

I think what change calls for is a big dose of bravery.  And where can we find that?  Look no further than in stories–the stories of others who have been through similar circumstances as well as the stories found in books.

I just finished reading a book by one of my new favorite authors, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell.  A white girl from Africa loses her father and is sent to an English boarding school where she encounters mean girls and culture shock.  Talk about change AND conflict!

Whether you find yourself in this particular situation or not, there’s a lot of wisdom to be learned by following the girl’s story as she runs away from her troubles.  Here are some of my favorite quotes.

“It is real life that takes the real courage, little wildcat…  Although life is very beautiful, it is also very difficult.”

“Hiding and panic go together.  There is nothing in this world that is worse than panic.”

“I do know how difficult school can be, my love.  I hated it myself.  If you go back, it won’t be like cartwheeling in the sunshine.  It would be more like cartwheeling into the wind.”

“But it would be the best possible training.  It would make your arms strong…  And your heart.  You could build a cartwheeling, wildcat heart.”

So go after what you want, even if it means change.  Because in the end, you’ll find you’ve changed, too.  You’ll be stronger for it, and your dreams will become reality.  And boy will you have a good story to tell!