living fearlessly

Which wolf do you feed?

Which Wolf Do You Feed?

by cheryl on February 11, 2014

in 2mindfulmoms

Thoughts from Week 2 of the Real Happiness – 28 Day Meditation Challenge . . .

 

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. 

He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.  One is Evil – It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This Native American Cherokee story was told to me three times in one week, by three different people, in completely unrelated situations.  A message from the Universe, heard loud and clear. I love this story because it  relates so beautifully to the practice of meditation and mindfulness.  We are motivated either  by love or by fear.  The amazing part of a meditation practice is that we can begin to observe our patterns of behavior, thoughts and emotions, to see them for what they really are — fear based acts or acts of unconditional love.   Once we become more aware and see ourselves more clearly,  we can decide how we choose to act — an amazingly powerful process.  The other incredible benefit from a meditation practice is that we can cultivate a different attitude or lens through which we see the world.   We can choose to act from love rather than from fear, and practice creating positive neural pathways (the scientifically researched approach) or practice lovingkindness (the 2500 year-old Buddhist meditation approach).   However one chooses to explain the process, we can choose to act from love rather than from fear.  In doing so, the world becomes a different place (kinder, gentler, more loving), and we begin to move in it with greater joy and greater ease.  So, this week, as I continue Week 2 of my Meditation Challenge, I look deeper at which wolf I feed, and continue to choose love.

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Weekly Wisdom #14

by cheryl on May 22, 2012

in Weekly Wisdom

“Most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds to walk boldly through them.”

-Orison Swett Marden

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Weekly Wisdom #10

by cheryl on February 20, 2012

in Uncategorized, Weekly Wisdom

Life is too short to wake up each morning with regrets.  So, love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason.  If you get a chance, take it.  If it changes your life, let it.  Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.

-Unknown

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Our children’s lives are filled with “firsts” – their first day of school, their first soccer game, their first time riding a bike, their first exam, their first date, their first time away from home.   They would probably not classify all of these as exciting experiences, some might be considered terrifying experiences.  Yet, I admire how they march on each day into a world that is full of new adventures and personal challenges.

As parents, it is often tempting to want to protect our children from this scary world.  We want them to succeed so badly that we often feel the need to set them up in situations that will only offer them the possibility of success.  This is where one of the greatest challenges of parenting lies – allowing our children to experience failure and disappointment.  Through these experiences they build their inner resilience, their ability to bounce back from whatever life throws their way.  They learn that their self worth is not defined by their successes, but by their willingness to try and to rebound from whatever the outcome.

I love Michael Jordan’s quote on the true meaning of success.  He said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Unlike our children who face many great challenges as they grow, as we get older, it is easy to become accustomed to our routine and to what we feel comfortable doing.  When I turned 40, I realized that I missed that thrill of putting myself outside of my comfort zone and learning what it feels like to try something new.  So, at the ripe old age of 40, I decided to attempt an Olympic triathlon.  I always wanted to complete a marathon or a triathlon.  Each year I would come up with a million reasons why I would not be able to do it.   This time I was determined to push myself forward and accept this personal challenge.

Let me assure you that I am not a hardcore athlete.  I have always been committed to staying fit with moderate exercise as part of my weekly routine, but I was not a runner, biker or swimmer at the onset of this personal challenge.  Yet, after many months of training, I became a swimmer, runner and biker.   Look at that – a new definition of me at age 40!  I had already accomplished something.

After many months of training, the time had come to attempt my first Olympic triathlon.  This involved a .9 mile swim in the chilly waters of the Long Island Sound, a 25 mile bike ride up and down the hills of Westchester County, and a 6.2 mile run to complete the race.  Despite my rigorous training, the night before the triathlon I was terrified.  I am not a huge fan of fear and anxiety, but I am a huge fan of what happened next.  I found myself involved in quite an amazing self-coaching exercise.  I began to tell myself that I was prepared, that I had done everything that I could do to prepare for this day, that I would put my safety first throughout the race and if I ever felt that I could get hurt, I could always simply stop.  I reminded myself that it was just a race, and finish or not, I was going to try.  My family would love me just the same whether I came in first, last or didn’t finish at all.   They were proud of me for simply trying.  Most importantly, I was incredibly proud of myself.

On the morning of the race, as the sun was rising over the beach where we would start our swim, I watched the physically challenged athletes enter the water first.  Many of these individuals were without an arm or leg, or both.  I was in awe of their courage and the incredible stories of hard work, determination and sheer will power that got them to this moment.  Those brave individuals inspired me to get into that cold water and do my best.  I spent the next three hours taking it literally one stroke, one push of the pedal and one stride at a time, focusing on my breath the whole way and telling myself that I could do this.  At the top of the highest climb on my bicycle, I was brought to tears by an incredible feeling of accomplishment.  I realized that I could actually do this.

Much to my great relief and amazement, I finished!   I did not finish at the front of the pack, but I finished.  My family was there at the finish line to cheer me on and give me big hugs when I was done.  But it wasn’t their praise that I felt most, it was the incredible feeling that at the age of 40 I had done something that I never thought I could do.  I had experienced another “first” in my life.  I persevered, pushed myself and overcame my fears.   I was left with a strong sense that the human mind and body is capable of incredible things through sheer will and determination.  In many ways, I felt like a child again, experiencing the thrill of stepping outside of my comfort zone, and the pride that I gave it a try.   Just like in life, I thought, we have to have faith in ourselves, face our fears, and take each moment as they come, one step at a time, by simply putting one foot in front of the other each step of the way.

I am not suggesting that everyone should run out and sign up for a triathlon.  I am suggesting that there is great value in stepping outside of your comfort zone and encouraging your children to do the same.  It can be as a simple as trying a sport that you have always wanted to try, planning a trip that you have always dreamed of taking, or signing up for a class that has always peaked your interest.  Whatever it is, there is so much to be gained from putting yourself out there.  The only way to fail is by never giving it a try.

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How Full Is Your Glass?

How Full Is Your Glass?

by cheryl on February 4, 2012

in Healthy Living

Have you ever noticed how many choices we make everyday?  Most of us are incredibly fortunate to live in a world full of choices.  We choose everything from what to eat for breakfast each morning or what clothes we want to wear each day, to what we want to do when we grow up or who we want to marry.

On the flip side, we cannot always choose our circumstances.  Whether we are faced with great tragedy or the more mundane happenstances of our daily lives, we often feel like we are the unfortunate victims of life’s unfairness.

An important lesson that I often remind myself, especially when my children complain that something is just not fair, is the unwavering truth that life is not always fair.  I would love to look into their innocent little eyes and tell them that whatever wrong they have felt will somehow magically be made right.  As we all know, this is simply not true and is a lesson that would not serve them well in coping with life’s ups and downs.  I always feel like the bearer of bad news, the one who must deflate that balloon of childhood optimism, when I tell my children that life is not always fair.  Once they accept this to be true, however, things may get a little easier.

It is so important for us to recognize that when life’s unexpected, less than desirable situations come our way, we have a choice.   We can recognize that we may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control how we choose to react to them.  Our choice is to either look at those bumps in the road as devastating blows that underscore the unfairness of life OR view them as unique opportunities to choose how we want to see the world.

I am not suggesting that we can avoid the pain (physically or emotionally) that may accompany our bumps in the road (or mountains as the case may be).  What I am suggesting is that we must be very careful not to add to that pain by struggling against what is.  Sylvia Boorstein explains this concept beautifully in her book, It’s Easier Than you Think, in which she explains the Buddhist notion that suffering comes from clinging.  She writes, “ [S]uffering is what happens when we struggle with whatever our life experience is rather than accepting and opening to our experience with a wise and compassionate response.”

How often do we say to ourselves or do we hear someone else say, “that’s just my luck” or “my life is just one disappointment after another” or “no one ever listens to me” or “that’s just not fair” or some other similar complaint?   If we convince ourselves that this is our tragic reality, then it becomes our reality through our own ever-narrowing perspective.  This conditioned response can make us feel powerless.  We begin to identify ourselves as the repeated victim of life’s unfairness, but we don’t have to.  We have a choice.  There is tremendous freedom in realizing that we do not have to react as we have become so accustomed to reacting.  We can take a step back and try a new perspective on for size.  Once we recognize that we may not be able to change the situation, we can choose to accept with grace and wisdom what we cannot change and react in a way that will make our lives easier and more joyful.

One very personal example of an incredibly challenging situation in my life is my mother’s recent illness.   The circumstances are what they are.  Life is not always fair.  So, I am faced with a choice.  I can look at her illness and it’s effect on all of us with regret, anger and resentment OR I can choose to take what is, what I cannot change, and look at the opportunities that I have been given.  I choose to let my troubles be my teachers.  As a result, I have learned so much. I have learned to appreciate the incredible gift of good health, the importance of cherishing each moment that I have with those who are special to me, the value in really listening to others, and the joy in simply being fully present for those I love so dearly.

When some days are filled with great challenges and sadness, I choose to focus on those little moments that I have learned to appreciate so much, in which I have found such joy even in the face of very trying circumstances.  I have never enjoyed having a quiet breakfast with my mother more than over the past few months, something we rarely get to do, even if we share those meals in a hospital room.   I have never felt the importance of holding her hand more, as she so often held mine when I needed it.  I have never fully appreciated the power of being able to breathe fully and deeply more than when I watch someone struggling to do just that.  I have never appreciated the sound of my parents’ voices more than when I make that first phone call each morning to find out how they are and am delighted to hear a cheerful, happy voice on the other end of the line wishing me a good morning.  All is right in the world when I hear happiness, optimism and the start of a good day on the other end of the phone.

Would I trade all of these lessons to make her illness go away?  Absolutely!  But I do not have that choice.  I still feel the pain of the situation – the sadness.  However, I try not to add suffering on to that pain by clinging to what I cannot change.  I also feel the incredible power of love, hope and optimism, the feeling that anything is possible.  I choose this perspective – it is the space in which I want to live and hope to share with those around me.  It is a work in progress and a challenging journey, but that’s what life is all about.

So, think for a moment, as you take a deep breath, and consider how you want to act and react to your life’s circumstances – the big and the small situations that you find yourself in everyday.   Embrace the incredible freedom we all have to choose how we want to see the world.  I choose to see my glass as overflowing.  How full is your glass?

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Weekly Wisdom #5

by cheryl on January 11, 2012

in Weekly Wisdom

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs

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A Poem for Reflection – Quiet The Mind

A Poem for Reflection – Quiet The Mind

by joanna on January 3, 2012

in 2mindfulmoms

Quiet The Mind

William Martin

Our bodies produce
the bodies of our children.
Our noisy minds produce
the fears of our children.
But the Tao produces
the spirit of our children

Still the body
Quiet the mind
Discover the spirit.

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At a recent seminar entitled “Living Fearlessly,” I was asked to select a partner, another student in the class who I did not know, and sit face to face with him, knees touching, and take five minutes to simply stare into his eyes.  In the scheme of my daily tasks, this did not seem to be a hard request.  However, I soon found that it was almost impossible.   I could not stare into his eyes for an extended period of time without looking away.  I felt like I was intruding on his personal, private space, as if I was creating an uncomfortable intimacy with a total stranger by peering right into his soul, and allowing him to look into mine.  They say that the eyes are the window to the soul and this exercise seemed to have given me powerful evidence of the truth to that popular proverb.

After that class, I was intrigued and began my own personal experiment.  I decided to make a conscious effort to make clear and lasting eye contact with people throughout my day.  The results were quite amazing.  To simply look into my husband’s eyes in the morning and wish him a good day, had a completely different effect than my usual routine of yelling good bye to him while making the children’s lunches as he walks out the door.  Next, I took the time, only a few seconds, to look into my children’s eyes as they went off to school, wishing them a wonderful day.  This was an incredibly loving gesture that warmed my heart, and hopefully warmed theirs as well.

I also noticed that by taking the time to look into my children’s eyes while they were speaking to me made those moment so much more intimate and meaningful.  It allowed me to be present, to truly listen and let them know that they were being heard.  That is an incredible gift that you can give another person, especially your children, just by looking into their eyes.   Of course, this required me to stop texting, to take a break from checking my e-mails or reading the newspaper or cleaning the kitchen.  It required me to be in the moment and truly connect with those around me.  In doing so, I made those daily interactions much less mundane and routine, and much more meaningful and loving.

I didn’t stop there.   I quickly realized that it is quite simple to go through my daily routine without making eye contact with the strangers that I encounter throughout my day.   I could go to the bank, shop at the grocery story, sit through a meeting and never make meaningful eye contact with anyone.  So, I decided to look into the eyes of everyone I came in contact with that day.  The results were amazing.  At my local grocery store, for example, I looked right into the eyes of the cashier and found that she looked right back at me.   That moment was very powerful.  On most days I would help bag the groceries, swipe my card and be on my way.  By taking the time to look into her eyes, I made a brief connection with another human being and saw that she was a loving, caring person with an incredibly rich and complex life.  For that one moment, she saw me and I saw her.   In those few seconds of eye contact, it seemed like everything else stood still.   I can’t accurately describe the feeling I got, but it was quite moving.  When you look into someone’s eye and they look into yours, there seems to be a connection that goes straight to your heart.

We are all moving through life at such a rapid pace that taking a moment to acknowledge the existence of another human being who crosses your path, to truly look at them and acknowledge them, brings greater joy to those seemingly ordinary moments that fill our days, and who wouldn’t want more joy in their lives?

It’s not easy.  I know that I often do not look into other people’s eyes, not because I don’t want to see them, but because I don’t want to be seen.  Allowing someone that access creates a great feeling of vulnerability.  You open yourself up and it can feel scary, intense and awkward.   My meditation teacher asked us to do an exercise that was a little odd, but very telling.  She asked us to go to a mirror, and stare into our own eyes for a while, and tell ourselves, “ I love you.”   It feels very strange and a bit silly, but it is an interesting lesson in learning to love yourself and in really looking inward.  If you cannot do this exercise, then perhaps you should ask yourself why.

So, give it a try and let us know what you find.  I hope it will be a simple step to help you be in the moment, and to truly connect with yourself and all of those amazing people in your life!

This is the first article in a series entitled Simple Steps.  Simple Steps are  little things that we can all do that can really make a difference in our lives.  Check out our complete list of  Simple Steps.

 

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