Wednesday, January 27, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 27: Love Your Neighbor

I wrote this post last year sometime. Ariella no longer lives in my neighborhood, she moved. I'm sad about that. She changed how I view my neighborhood. While I love blogging, communicating with "live" people is very important, too. I like to walk through my neighborhood and chat with the neighbors if I see them outside. This is a picture of my mom and me in front of my lovely house in Seattle. One of my husband's yoga students and our neighbor and friend built our fence. Here's the story I wrote:
My neighbor, Ariella, is from Lopez Island, WA. Everyone on that island waves to everyone else as they pass by. Before Ariella moved to my Seattle neighborhood, I didn't know my neighbors at all. The only words I heard from the neighbors were, "Be careful of the crazy guy next door!" Shortly after we moved in, my husband went to a meditation course and left me alone in the house for 10-days. I was a little scared of the man next door who would stand in the middle of the street shouting obscenities. Cars would honk, but he wouldn't get out of the way. People in the neighborhood warned me to stand clear and that he was "dangerous." One evening I decided to listen to his ranting. He said, "I am Rocky!" I had to laugh a little. Then he said, "We need a new president!" (which I agreed with at the time). Still, I kept my distance at the advice of the neighbors.

After my husband returned from his meditation course, we'd often take walks through the neighborhood. One afternoon, as we were returning, the "crazy neighbor" was standing in the middle of the road swearing and shouting. I wasn't sure how we'd get around him. He shouted to my husband, "Hey, YOU, Yamamoto!" I'm not sure why he said "Yamamoto." My husband is Korean and Yamamoto is the name of a Japanese general. Seong Yoon, my husband, spoke softly and said, "My name is Yoon. I'm from Korea." The man continued to yell and curse. I was a little frightened. Suddenly, Seong Yoon walked over to the "crazy man" and gave him a big hug! The man became soft and said, "God bless you." He looked like he might cry. Seong Yoon asked, "What's your name?" and the man replied, "Kurt." As we were about to enter the door to our house, Kurt said again, "God bless you!"

Time passed and Kurt continued to yell from time to time. I wasn't so afraid anymore. Ariella moved to the neighborhood about a year or so after we did. She was intent on introducing herself. The neighborhood changed after she moved in. Being from Lopez Island, she was used to knowing all her neighbors. During the holidays, she'd knock on our door and bring homemade candy and sweets. Other neighbors started to knock on the door and do the same, it seemed they were following in her footsteps. Last year, Ariella decided to have a three day Winter Solstice party. It was something they frequently did on the islands. I wasn't sure I'd go, I had to think about it. The weekend of the party, a big snow storm hit. We couldn't go anywhere, so we decided to go to the party next door. I whipped up some haystack cookies and we bundled up and walked through the heavy snow to the neighbor's house. I felt, for a minute, like I was back in old times-like I was part of a Little House on the Prairie episode. I was trudging through the snow to the neighbors house to bring "tidings of joy." We knocked on the door and were greeted to a warm living room full of hot cider, cookies, chili, and other goodies. We took off our boots, hats, and scarves and settled in. We were surprised (but not too surprised) to find that the party consisted of mostly people in the neighborhood. No one could go anywhere due to the weather, so we were all together.

A few days ago, I decided to walk to Blockbusters and get a movie. I saw Ariella huddled on Karin's porch. Karin's father was in town for the Folk Life Festival in Seattle. They were all sitting outside eating a summer salad. They motioned me over and we chatted a bit about how fun that party was in the winter. Ariella's decided to have a three day Summer Solstice party this year. I'm looking forward to it!

During the Memorial Day holiday, I went out shopping. I came home to find Kurt's front lawn, which is usually knee high with grass and dandelions, all manicured. I came in the house and said, "Kurt mowed his lawn." Seong Yoon said, "Actually, I did." I was a bit baffled. Apparently, Kurt invited Seong Yoon inside for a drink. This is shocking because NO ONE, besides the police and family members, have been inside Kurt's house. He offered him a beer. Since Seong Yoon doesn't drink alcohol, he offered him a non-alcoholic beverage. He even filled the glass with ice and brought it out to the living room. I asked, still baffled, "What did you talk about?" Seong Yoon said, "You know, religion...politics." I had to laugh. It was just so hard to picture this scene. After their chat, as Seong Yoon was leaving, he said, "Kurt, you should mow your lawn." Kurt mentioned that he did not have a mower. With that, Seong Yoon came over and mowed the entire lawn. Now, when Kurt sees Seong Yoon, he doesn't shout obscenities or call him "Yamamoto." He says, "Hi, friend! How are you!" and he seems to always say, "God Bless You!"

When Seong Yoon first arrived in the USA, he noticed right away that people seemed to keep to themselves. Everyone seems to hide out in their houses, afraid to make contact with any of the unknown, possibly crazy, people in their neighborhood. Recently, things have changed. I'm not sure if it was Ariella's intent on getting to know everyone, or Seong Yoon's gentleness with a neighbor who most people feared, but I feel quite different now. I walk confidently through the neighborhood now and like to stop and talk to the neighbors if I see them outside. Even when Kurt goes on one of his rants, I'm able to say, "Hi, Kurt!" and he seems to settle down. It doesn't take too much effort to wave to your neighbors once in awhile, does it? Come on, people on Lopez Island do it all the time, why not right here in my own little neighborhood in Seattle, too?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 26: Let Go of Fear

I must be in sync with some of my other blogger friends because they have also touched on this subject. It's a big one, so it's worth addressing again and again. Right now my Facebook status update reads, "What are you afraid of?" I'm sure some of my friends had an idea that one of my intentions of asking that question was to gather thoughts for a lesson here. The answers people wrote were: spiders, being a bad person, getting old, losing my loved ones, failure, success and severe pain (success and severe pain were mine and I questioned if those are separate things or if they go together). The list of what we all fear could very possibly be a endless blog post. Everyone fears something.

I have another blog called Writer's Rising. It's a collaborative blog for writers. Recently there have been several new authors added (If you are interested in writing for Writers Rising, leave a comment or send me an e-mail). One new writer named Sai from New Delhi, India (his blog is Waves Upon The Shore) really struck a cord with me about fear. Just as I was about to post this, he also posted on this topic in his introduction. He talked about how he used to be afraid to write because he worried about what others might think of his writing. He would edit his writing so much that nothing was left of himself. He let go of this. The result is beautiful. In his intro on Writers Rising, he talks about a chant he says to himself. It is "Aham Brahamsmi" or "I am the universe." I LOVE this. Basically this means that all the strength of the universe is ours.

It's no easy task to learn to let go of fear. Fear blocks us. It creates a shield and I believe it blocks our ability to realize that we are, in fact, the universe. That there is something beyond what our tiny minds can perceive. There is a greater force at it God, higher consciousness, grace, or whatever you wish.

For me, when I realize that I am just a small dot in a much bigger picture of things, I lose a lot of that fear. In deep meditation, many of the parmeters of "myself" start to disappear. I start to expand. I no longer know where I begin or where I end or if there is even this "I" I speak of. There seems to be just space which encompasses all things within it.

I still have fear. I am not immune to it. I am human. It comes and goes. I still worry what people might think of me or my writing. It is still scary to open myself up. It's risky. Yes, it's a very big risk. But, I'm willing to go there. Why? I have learned so much by diving into this fear of mine. I have met other people, like Sai, who also share this fear. I feel that by opening up, I start to actually let go. I realize that there is not much difference between you and me and what we fear. It may be different things, but it's all the same. It's fear.

Other things I fear or have feared in the past are not having enough money, severe pain, my health, death of a loved one, having a car accident, technology etc. etc. This is all I can think of right now.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "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 lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Fear is debilitating. It is restricting. Fear tells us, "Don't do anything because it might be wrong or something might happen." If your intentions are good, how could something be wrong and what could really happen to you anyway? These are all just "coulds". We are saying, "This could happen or that could happen." These are all just thoughts. Nothing has happened yet, has it? If you are fearing a situation that happened in the past, who knows, it might be different this time around.

I have found that the only way to embrace my own fears is to believe that everything will be just fine. That I will be o.k. and so will others. That, as Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The rest are just projections in my own mind of what might happen.

Ultimately, it is the fear of our own death that we are afraid of, isn't it? Of the extinction of ourselves and others. That everything about the lives we are living will terminate at some point in time. What happens after depends on what you believe. Knowing that we have such a limited time for this life, I intend to face as many of my fears as possible and expand and share with as many people as possible. Time is so precious and the time we have in this life is limited. Who has time for fear?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 16: Don't Worry About Money. The Best Things In Life Are Free

Another blog post brought to you by a fortune in my cookie. Here it is:

I actually borrowed this image from the website My fortune was on the list, believe it or not!

The owner of this website wrote, "The question, of course, is whether you should have to pay for your meal after getting this." That made me chuckle.

What can I say, I've had some good fortunes. I don't worry too much about money. As the Beatles song goes, "I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love..." Perhaps the Beatles didn't care too much for it because they had an endless supply of it. Whatever the case, this is how our society runs. It runs on money.

Remove Formatting from selection

What is your relationship to money? Does flow like a river or spout out of the ground like an endless fountain into your hands or do you feel you've become a slave to money; that you have to work like a dog just to make it out there?

I'm not sure I'm in the first category, but I've definitely been in the second. I used to feel like I was a machine working away just to make a few lousy dollars and
there wasn't any joy in the process.

It's one thing not to have money, but worrying about it is not the answer. Worrying never solved any problems in the world. It's a disease. If you worry about money, you probably worry about other things like your children, the state of the world, the economy, the weather, your health, etc.

People with an endless supply of cash also worry. They worry about who might steal it, what the stock market might do. They worry that someone might try and take it away from them. Some people protect their stash as if they were protecting a child.

It's time to get yourself out of this endless cycle of worrying. Worrying
for the sake of worrying is more damaging than the problems themselves. Stop it right now!

I don't worry too much anymore. I thank many hours of meditation and yoga for that. I thoroughly enjoy my life and it's not because I can fly off in my leer jet to a tropical island at the drop of a hat or that my body is dripping in jewels (although visualizing this seems sort of exciting, to say the least).

I realize that the best things in life are
FREE! That's right FREE!!!

This morning I slept in a little and my husband made me breakfast. I looked out the window from my bed onto the backyard. The sun was coming up and the clouds turned pink. Birds and squirrels were hopping around in the yard. Pine trees stood in the d
istance. The sun was pouring in my room. I was so happy to see the sun and it was FREE!

At any given moment you have an opportunity to decide how you want to view your life. I choose to live mine positively and with gratitude for all that is around me. I also feel good when I share what I have with others, even if I feel I don't have much. This is how I live. I wake up and go to sleep feeling
POSITIVE about my life and I realize that the things in it that make me happy are not things I have to spend money for...."money can't buy me love."

This has really changed things for me. I feel extremely
RICH. By choosing to live with an optimistic view on life, I am finding that more and more opportunities are coming into my life that were never there before.

So next time you are feeling depressed, negative or down on your luck...look around you, look outside, look at your children or your husband, look at your garden or your pets, look at the sun or the snow or a bird or a cloud passing overhead.

Look at the food in front of you or the friend you are with. Look at your hands, your legs, your face...feel the grass, the sun, the water.

sunset or sunrise

Do you realize that all you need you already possess; that everything that is important is right here in front of you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 13: Live Moment to Moment

This moment is all you have. What are you doing right now in this moment? Are you here? Can you feel yourself from the inside? Can you feel your breath? Can you feel your body? How does your body feel in this moment? Stop everything. Stop your thinking and just feel yourself from the inside. How do you feel? Take the next few moments to feel yourself from the inside out........

We spend so much energy thinking about the past and the future, but all we really ever have is now. Maybe you know this, you have read about it, people have said this in the past and you agree. But do you really know this? Are you really practicing this?

How much time do you spend thinking about the future......where you want to go, what you want to do, who you want to be. Or how much time do you spend worrying about the future or lamenting about what happened in the past? Is this really a good use of time? What's gone is gone and the future's not ours to see.

I am a list maker. One reason I make lists is to get thoughts out of my head. I put my ideas on paper. When I complete something on the list, I cross it off. I try not to think too much about what I have done or what I'm going to do. I just put it on the list. Sometimes I lose my balance and start thinking about what I'd like to accomplish in the future. This gets overwhelming after awhile and starts the whole cycle of stress, worry, fear, etc. These emotions can overpower us and make us feel like quitting.

I think it is good to reflect on our own accomplishments from the past, as long as we don't get stuck there. If we are mindfully reflecting, it can give us strength for this moment. If we are holding on to what we once were, we have lost this moment.

Oprah Winfrey said, "My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment." I completely agree.

Right now you may be thinking, "I don't like where I am in life." This thought can be discouraging. To get ourselves out of the deep hole that we have put ourselves in can seem like too much effort. It's easier just to rest in the hole and forget about it. If we think about the distance we need to go, we may stop before we even begin.

Once you start living your life in moments, this whole idea of getting somewhere changes. The only thing you are responsible for is living THIS moment the best you can. Just think about this moment. Keep bringing yourself back to this moment again and again.

If you are walking, just walk. If you are looking at the ocean, just look at the ocean. If you are typing a blog post on your computer, just type a blog post on your computer. If you are reading this blog post, just read this blog post. If you are shoveling shit, just shovel shit. If your children are screaming, witness that in the moment and do what you need to do in the next moment. If someone says something you don't like, witness it first. How does that feel inside you. Be where you are without thinking you have to change it...without thinking you have to change YOU or anyone else.

Of course emotions and feelings and thoughts will arise when you are doing any activity, but you don't need to chase your thoughts down dark corners. Let them come up, let them be there...but don't hold them.

Right now I am typing. I feel my fingers on the keyboard. The sun is shining into my office. I feel tingling in my feet. My legs are crossed. I feel comfortable right now. I feel light. I don't know what I will type next, but this is what I am typing right now.

How about you? How do you feel right now? How are you living this moment? It's all you have.