The Thing About Miracles


My word for the year has been “miracles.”  As such, I’ve invited all kinds of miracles into my life, some intended and some not.  It has been fun and exciting to watch them unfold and then document them afterwards.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t make them happen.  You also can’t predict how they will work out.  In fact, some miracles are actually preceded by sacrifice and loss.

I learned to meditate this year in order to help my insomnia and anxiety.  But the road to relaxation has not always been an easy one.  Mainly because mindfulness is easier said than done.  I’ve had to let go of a lot of old behaviors that trigger worry and doubt.  I’ve had to look my fears in the face and learn to embrace them like old friends.

But if you’re open to change, transformation is inevitable.  And when you get your wings and another chance in life, the experience becomes truly miraculous.

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”
–Judy Blume

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
–Eleanor Roosevelt

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
–Louisa May Alcott

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” –Audrey Hepburn

“Out of difficulties grow miracles.” –Jean de la Bruyere

 

 

 

 

The Glass Is Half

Be Happy

This advice either sounds really easy or really hard, depending on your perspective.

But here’s an affirmation that might help you out either way.

“I am confident, and it’s a wonderful day.  I am the architect of my life, and I have talents I will use today.”

I found this quote in the April 2015 issue of Redbook magazine.

According to Aunna Pourang, M.D., a holistic family physician in Los Angeles and author of Meditate, Don’t Medicate, affirmations can help reduce stress and create change.

Whatever affirmation you use, say it every day.  Better yet, say it with a smile while looking at yourself in the mirror 🙂

 

 

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!

My word for the year: 2015

On Top of Stone Mountain

Happy new year dear readers!  It’s getting off to a marvelous start, don’t you think?  Every year needs a theme to help propel us forward.  My friend got me started on this practice of creating a word for the year.  I began with possibilities in 2013 and then confidence in 2014.  So what’s my word for such a stellar new year such as this?

CHANGE

This could be the most exciting and intimidating word I’ve chosen yet.  Nobody likes change.  I think it’s part of our defense system as humans.  We’re taught to believe change equals something bad, when in reality, it often doesn’t.  In fact, by welcoming change, we invite all kinds of unique experiences and opportunities into our lives.  When we learn to embrace change without fear, that is when we are most likely to grow, soaring to new heights.

As my husband finishes up his masters program, I can see all kinds of change for us on the horizon.  Part of me hesitates, as I sit on my comfortable perch.  But being comfortable doesn’t always mean better.  And I don’t want to miss out on all life has to offer simply because I’m comfortable where I am.  Leaping into the unknown is scary, but it’s the kind of uncertainty that will set you free.  Let me offer you an example or two.

My husband and I recently took a road trip to the South.  He lived there for three years, but I’d never spent any time there, mostly because I felt it was too different.  Given the history of the culture characterized by racial inequality and differing values, I assumed I wouldn’t like it.  But I realize now that by not going, I was harboring my own set of prejudices.  Defining an entire culture based on one moment in time.  And as it turns out, I was missing a lot!  I saw a part of the country that was not defined merely by its mistakes but by its ability to claim them and move through them.  There is integrity in that and hope.  It also made me recognize more clearly the separation that still divides us close to home in the North.  I hope we can recognize and own that, too.  My husband and I are grateful we live in a time that allows for more differences and hope that trend will continue to grow in the future.

But getting back to the South.  That southern hospitality reminds me of the politeness found in Japan.  It feels genuine, too.  The cuisine blends the comfort food of the past with the modern trends of farm to table and foodie culture.  The warm climate, the Spanish moss, the charming squares, historic buildings, and the country/jazz/blues music all found their way into my heart.  I was also impressed by the diversity found in major cities like Atlanta and Nashville.  We even found a Japanese bakery, which felt like home.  Consider me a changed person already, and the year is just getting started!

Now as I sit here typing on my Dell, I face my next big change.  A new computer.  My first Apple.  I haven’t even opened the box, yet.  Ha!  But you can trust that I will.  Because it’s a new year and I’m embracing the change that is all around us.  The only constant.  I feel myself expanding in every direction.  Welcoming all the possibilities with confidence.

In the coming year, how will you embrace change?

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.  Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, CHANGING yourself, CHANGING your world.  You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”  —Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust and Coraline

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life: The Great Experiment

My friend emailed me this great blog post about people who essentially rearranged their lives to follow their passions.  I guess everyone is doing it.  Who knew?  There is one quote by writer Stephanie Wetzel that really struck me.

She said, “That’s the thing about changing. You can’t just set your sights and put your head down while you move forward. Opportunity shows up all along the way, you’ve got to keep the right perspective or you might miss it!”

What a wake up call for me.  It isn’t enough to just start on a new path, fumbling in the dark, grasping wildly, hoping for the best and still expecting the worst.  Not if you realize you’ve had your eyes closed the entire time.  Forge ahead proudly!  Yes, be willing to learn and grow.  But plant many seeds.  Try EVERYTHING.  You never know where your next great experiment might lead.