Author Archives: yogapaula

Toss Those Lists and Dive into Something New

Somehow, rather unconsciously I believe, my resolve for this year became about doing instead of thinking about doing. While I have always been a list maker, believing this was the way to be productive, my attachment to making lists has gone by the wayside. Lists are about organization and getting things done. My new motto is more about process and finding ones self and purpose. While lists are not a bad thing if you are going out to do errands, what I’ve discovered is that they stand in the way of spontaneity and being in the moment; seeing what life brings and places in front of us. This change for me began with one of my favorite authors, Mark Nepo, and his book “Things That Join The Sea And The Sky. Philosopher and poet, Mr. Nepo gives us words that are soft and gentle, but still profound and wrenching and life shaking. His short essay “Quieting the Thieves” inspired me to start changing the way I was living. I read a little Mark Nepo every day and find him inspiring on many levels. If you do read some of his work, let us know how you like it and if it has inspired you!
We are given lists and steps we need to take throughout much of our lives. Since kindergarten there has been order placed upon us. School, work, marriage, kids, more work, more education; all signs tells us if we do things in a certain order we will have happy and successful lives. If that is true, then why is it that so many people I know and talk to (including myself) are still searching for something. It isn’t that we haven’t been successful or haven’t raised great kids or enjoyed the work we have done. All good…except? What is it we are supposed to be doing? I hear this from people who love their jobs and from people who are looking to make a change. It has nothing to do with money or “success”. It has everything to do with our mortality and our wish to leave a positive mark on the world and feel the deep peace that knowing our purpose provides.
For me, the notion of doing and not thinking about doing has freed me from living in the world of excuses. How often do you find yourself saying; “I would love to try that!”, “Wouldn’t that be fun”, “I want to ________(fill in the blank with your own desire)” Do it! With so much information out there it is easy to get mired down in the research of something we want to do, which can kill any initial joy. Just try something, have some fun. Always wanted to draw? Grab a sketchbook and pencil and go outside. Want to write. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write something down. Doesn’t matter what. Write a letter to someone. Write down a dream. Write down how the backyard is looking as spring approaches. Movement will create movement in the same way that letting thoughts stay as thoughts creates stagnation. Don’t hide your work. Show it to your partner or send it to a friend. Doesn’t matter how “good” it is. Be proud of yourself. Sharing will make you keep engaged. When we start doing, we start becoming aware. We see what is happening at that moment; what is the universe giving us and showing us. Don’t overthink it. If you find something engaging and you want to learn more then go for it. But before you go on Youtube or start looking at books and classes and supplies, just have fun.
Doing helps us get closer to our purpose and to understanding this life we are given. There is no failure other than not giving something new and different a shot and seeing how it opens your eyes and where it takes you. Remember, it may not be exactly what you try that is the purpose in your life; but the awareness you develop, the people you meet and being curious enough to follow a path it suggests may lead you to something much bigger then you ever believed possible.
If you have a story about finding an activity that has inspired you and lead you down a path that perhaps you weren’t expecting please share it with us!

Changing It Up

Hello readers!
Happy 2018! I have missed you and while it wasn’t my intention to be away from here for quite so long, I needed the break for some introspection, and to explore how this blog can evolve while still giving a nod to its original spirit. What I have discovered is that I want this to be a more interactive site; a community space for us all. What I hear often from conversations that I have with friends is that many of us still don’t know exactly what we are supposed to be doing in this world. While we have had (and still have for some) successful jobs, raised confident and successful kids, and have overall “good lives”, we still feel like we are searching for passion and purpose. And even once we find what we love and want to pursue, it can be a bit overwhelming! What if we all started sharing our struggles and successes in this endeavor? This blog can be a place where we share ideas, projects, events and all things that help us to find our purpose and path and then continue forward with it. What I truly believe is that if we know who we are and what lights a fire under us, we can change our own world and the world around us.

One of the changes I have made is to add a “readers contribute” page. You will notice it at the top of the website. If you have anything you want to share, here is the space to do it. It can be artwork, a recipe, an essay, or something educational. My only request is that it not be political or antagonistic in nature. There is a tab now for  a  contact sheet for you to send your work. Also, if there is anyone out there who would like to have a weekly column on a specific topic please let me know. We can have more than one weekly column so don’t be shy. I think of friends I know who have an interest in cooking, wildlife and gardening just to mention a few. Perhaps you would be willing to share your knowledge, resources, struggles and successes with us! Since I know that many of you are also voracious readers, if you would like to review a book we will also have a “Books We Like” page. Let us know what inspires and/or motivates you about what you are reading.

Let’s make this a great place to share ideas, resources and support. I am open to and welcome any ideas you would like to suggest as we grow this blog into a site we can all enjoy and contribute to. This is going to be our blog, not just my blog. I love the idea of collaboration and know we can all benefit from making this an interactive space. If you have friends you believe would enjoy this site, get them involved too!

So here we go! Don’t be shy! Now that we have some of the new infrastructure out of the way, it’s time to get to work and have some fun!

“If I cannot do great things I can do small things in a great way” Martin Luther King
From a man who was destined to do great things, a reminder to us that we can make
a difference one small thing at a time.

Going for the gold

Good morning friends!
I hope all of you have been enjoying the dog days of summer. It is difficult for me to believe that Labor Day, our traditional reminder that fall is approaching, is coming up so quickly. While I have enjoyed my first summer here, I already have several winder projects planned. I can honestly say that I am looking forward to colder weather and shorter days. They speak to me of cups of tea, knitting, reading, cooking soups and stews, and planning next year’s garden.

Did any of you enjoy the Olympics this year as much as I did. I watched a lot more events and also followed some sports that I haven’t really paid much attention before. They were a nice break in this political year and year
of so much unrest in our cities. I think this world could learn by the good sportsmanship showed by the athletes and between countries.

I actually found myself jumping up and down during some of the swimming races, cheering of course for the amazing Michael Phelps, but also for all the athletes. You can come in last in one of those races, but you are still the 8th fastest swimmer in the world. Probably not much consolation for the athletes, but to me I still think that is pretty darn good.

Did you know that Michael Phelps changed his baby’s diaper for the first time ever after finishing all of his races. And in an interview with NBC, two of our gold winning gymnasts giggled about taking a break and being able to enjoy ( for a short while) some things like hamburgers. You may wonder why I am sharing this information with you. First, I am really enjoying the Olympics this year and have been more engrossed in them than usual. So many wonderful stories about the individual athletes and how they achieved such a high level of competition. Some of their personal struggles were heartbreaking and motivating at the same time. For me, it was difficult to absorb that it has become a world where there was a team representing refugees of the world. Wow. Good for them. We need to see this. This blog isn’t about politics or political situations in the world. But we can’t turn a blind eye to what is going on without wanting to see change and perhaps do something (even something small) to help.

The other reason I shared a little olympic trivia is to relate the level of dedication and discipline these athletes have to our own lives and the changes we are trying to create for ourselves. While our endeavors are perhaps not those of olympic proportion, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from their struggles and process and dedication to their sport. Whatever it is you are trying to change or create in your life, you need to make a plan for it. You will not be proficient in anything unless you are willing to put in some time and wave the white flag when it comes to being perfect. If you want to write, you need to write. A lot. Same thing with learning a new language, practicing meditation, creating a beautiful garden…the possibilities are endless. My knitting skill has increased so much in the last few months. I am trying new techniques, getting the help I need, knitting every day and sticking with it. Am I a master knitter…well not yet and maybe I will never have that distinction. But I have committed to becoming the best knitter I can be. And that means sticking with it daily.

For all the things I want to do better and do at all, I have made a weekly chart that I print out. Days of the week on top, activity on the sides. Right now I have several of them. Perhaps this is helpful for me since I am not working and it is very easy to lose track of time because of that. There are several things on my list and I try to do at least 4 of the every day. If I have a big project or something like cooking all day planned, then I make a note at the bottom so I know why I didn’t get other things done. This sort of structure has been great for me. It doesn’t plan every minute of my day, and I can spend a flexible amount of time on my endeavors. If I don’t get as much done as I had planned, I can think about why not. Did I waste time that day? Did I get caught up in another project and time just flew by? Sometimes we just need a down day to relax on the porch and read the day away while watching nature.

I’m not saying you need to make a chart to help you be more dedicated, but find what ever method works for you. There is a feeling of satisfaction and pride when we become more proficient in an activity. It will make you braver in your life and try even more new activities. You will have more self confidence which will help you in creating the life you want and deserve to live. I don’t aspire to be a great photographer, but I have been learning to take better pictures through one of the classes from Great Courses. I finally felt one of my pictures was good enough to send into Birds and Blooms magazine for their Bird Tales section where you can share your birding stories. Big deal? For me yes, because I often think I could never do something like that. It is a small step. I don’t know if they will use it, but the important thing is that I actually did it.

So what are you going to do today to step out of your comfort zone? One small step can make a difference in your life. Be brave. Be committed. Take a deep breath and know you can be successful. Remember the Olympic athletes and the looks on their faces when they knew they had won the gold. Take a step today towards creating a satisfying and successful life and put that “I won the gold” smile on your face.

Share your stories if you are comfortable doing so!

Pic of the Day

Just wanted to remind everyone to take a look at my Pic of the Day post also.  I try and change it every day but do it at least a few times a week.  Today I pay tribute to the Baltimore Orioles who have graced my feeder this season.  Check it out!

 

Learning to Commit

Hello everyone!

When I last posted I mentioned that I had picked up a book titled Staying Put: Making a home in a restless world by Scott Russell Sanders.  While I am only into the second chapter I will tell you right now that this book is a gem.  It is a book to read slowly and savor because it will get into your head and linger there. Mr. Sanders writes beautifully addressing the struggles many of us have as we navigate through our lives.  It is a book about putting down roots and creating a sense of place.  The book, while written in 1993, has even greater relevance today.  Our world has become even more restless and now, sadly,  much more violent.  This book is a comfort and a call to commitment in our lives.  I have no hesitation in telling you that this book will  help you to discover your own sense of home, place, and what matters in your life.  Also, be sure and check out the author’s website at http://www.scottrussellsanders.com.  Please take some time to look at his website.  His writing is thoughtful and engaging  and I was delighted to find he has authored many  books over the years.  If you can’t find the book locally, you can get it new or used on Amazon.  Let me know what you think.  I will share some of my favorite passages in a later post.

Speaking of restlessness, I want to put yes another plug in for meditation and some resources to help you.  It seems that meditative things have been appearing often in my life lately and I have been trying to pay attention to that.  As I have mentioned before, just the word meditation brings up and expectation for most of us; one that I sometimes think scares us off before we even get started.  There are many formalized practices of meditation and they all have their benefits and I am in no way discouraging you from learning or practicing them.  But sometimes it is better to ease into some disciplines that we may stay with them and flourish slowly.

A friend mentioned that even just doing a few seconds of meditation is helpful for her in situations like driving.  Taking a few breaths and quieting the mind briefly can be immensely helpful.  Try it when you get flustered or feel overwhelmed with things that need to get done.  It might be just the little break you need.

One of the churches close to me sits on a large piece of land and they have created a walking meditation labyrinth.  I believe walking can be meditative, but walking through this labyrinth has been a wonderful experience and has often helped me settle my mind and mysteriously provided clarity.  While you many not have access to a formal labyrinth, perhaps there is a circular path nearby or a space in your yard to create a repetitive walking path.

Another plug for my favorite beginning meditation and mindfulness book.  Mindfulness in Plain English by Ghante Henepola Gunaratana will eases you into the meditative process step by step.  I read parts of this book everyday and I never fail to learn something new.

And lastly, a resource that has been very helpful to me and good for those who like guided meditations.  Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey to their 21 day meditation events several times a year.  The last one was all about getting unstuck and has been one of the most helpful and insightful series  have done.  They cover a variety of issues in our lives and are a good combination of helpful words, a daily thought and meditation; easy session lasting around 20 minutes.  They are also free with the option to purchase the session once it is done.  Here is the link: http://www.chopracentermeditation.com

So what are you waiting for.  Mediation and mindfulness are what you make it. You don’t need special clothes or music.  Just a comfortable place to sit.  Give it a try today.  Start slowly. If you are just wanting to do a sitting meditation start with 5 minutes and gradually build up.  It will be worth it I promise!

What Appears

I walked through the older part of my neighborhood this morning.  In contrast to the more mid-century look of the streets around my house, I was passing by older and larger homes many of them looking like english country houses complete with lovely gardens and charming outdoor decor.  They are lovely homes, and somehow seem immune to the struggles and violence in the world; as if life behind those doors and windows is perfect.  And while I know this is false and in reality just  a result of  architecture and good landscaping/gardening, it did make me restless to start creating that feeling in my own home.  While I have only been here a few months, I long for a more established garden, a well used and welcoming kitchen and a living room that embraces with knitting and book scattered everywhere, welcoming an afternoon of creativity or reading.  A home that provides refuge, but welcomes visitors and is open to community with neighbors. The reasonable part of me knows this sort of atmosphere and beauty in the yard takes time, but still I dream on.

So as these thoughts were rambling through my mind while walking, I stopped at one of our little free libraries (http://www.littlefreelibrary.org) and browsed through the some interesting looking fiction.  But then I moved a few books and before me appeared a book titled Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World by Scott Russell Sanders (1993).  How Profound  that the universe provided this book for me  at the exact time I was thinking exactly about that very thing.  I can’t wait to have a cup of tea and see what this author has to say about putting down roots and creating a home.

 

And I do have the beginnings of a welcoming home!

profoundblog

 

Profound

Find Your Inner Renaissance Person

Inspiration is found everywhere. When I was a kid, I was crazy for every new craft that I saw and dove into endless projects with enthusiasm and determination. I loved going to the fabric store and the dime store, which carried all sorts of craft supplies. For a short time I was obsessed with making layered jello creations in goblets and clear dishes. During the summer one of the schools had what I remember as a 2 week day camp for making all sorts of stuff. We braided belts, made tiled trivets and woven pot holders. You could also do ceramics and a host of other activities that kept us out of the house and having fun.
I had no problem spending my days in the craft world, or outside playing with my friends. There was never the thought that I should be doing something else, spend my time more wisely or curtail my imagination. As an avid reader I loved adventure stories and tales of overcoming hardship which further fueled my imagination. Schools at the time still taught art and encouraged creative endeavors. My 4th grade teacher loved Mexico and we spent time doing projects about the country and also learning to speak some Spanish.

So what happens as we become adults in the world? Yes, we have to face the reality of working and family and day to day living. But why do we seem to often turn our backs on the creative process, talking ourselves out of trying new things and not allowing our imagination to flow? And more importantly how can we get back to a place where we learn for the joy of it and without expectations or a cluttered mind.

Deepak Chopra talks about mental claustrophobia as one way we prevent ourselves from enjoying the creative process. We tell ourselves we can’t do something before we even get started and are often 10 steps ahead of ourselves and far from being in the present moment. Before even attempting something we let our fears about so many things kill the joy and fun we could be having. We need to find that single mindedness and focus we had has children. So much emphasis is placed on multitasking that I fear it takes away from our ability to be in the moment

Remaining curious as an adult is so important. Not everything that sparks an interest needs to have a permanent place in your life, but being open to learning and trying new things will keep you vibrant, engaged in the world, and a good conversationalist at the very least. Perhaps someone suggests a book and you wonder what on earth you would find interesting about that particular topic. That happened for me when someone suggested I read “The Boys in the Boat”. Other than an appreciation for the grace of the sport, I have never had particular interest in rowing.  But this is one of the best books I have ever read. Yes, I learned a little about rowing, but I also learned a lot about teamwork, about what it takes to make a team, to make a boat, about discipline, about the inner fortitude of an earlier generation that seems lacking in the world these days, and about the Berlin olympics under Hitlers regime. I never expected I would gain so much knowledge and insight from a book about rowers and rowing.

Have you said to yourself more than once that you would love to learn a new language? If the answer is yes or perhaps you are planning a trip to a foreign country and would like to have a basic knowledge of the language, try http://www.Duolingo.com. It is a free language learning website plus they also have an app for your iPad and phone. Lots of choices here including Vietnamese, Turkish, Polish and Portuguese, along with Spanish and Italian. Unlike all the memorization we did in high school language classes, these lessons are short and interactive, allowing you to be as serious, or not, as you want. I’ve been learning Polish on Duolingo and I actually prefer it to Rosetta Stone.

Most college and universities have separate programs for adult learning with some offering day trips or longer excursions. There are usually a wide variety of subjects often taught by one of the college professors. Some meet weekly for several weeks, other for just a time or two. Art institutes or nature centers/botanical gardens also often have one day weekend or evening workshops and/or demonstrations.

Want to give writing a try, but not sure where to start? Give http://www.750words.com words a try. Free for the first month, and only $5 a month after that, the goal is just what the title says. Sit and write 750 words every day. Of course you can go longer than that if you want. They have monthly challenges and also tell you the mood of your writing each day along with words that you repeat often. You can have something specific you want to write or it can just be free flow. I have done both and recommend it highly.

Become a renaissance person! The ideal of the renaissance man who knew a little bit about a lot of things isn’t such a bad thing. Yes, we usually need some sort of expertise in an area so we can earn a living, plus it is nice to have some expertise at a hobby or two. But don’t stop there. The sky is the limit with all the possibilities that exist. Be curious, be open, let go of perfection and have some fun. We need fun in our lives, and while you may decide not to pursue a something after satisfying your curiosity about it, you may be able to inspire someone else who may have an interest in that particular thing.

Here are a couple of other ideas that you may find interesting or helpful.

Read the Mad Man Knitting Blog http://www.madmanknitting.wordpress.com. Gregory Patrick literally knitted himself out of homelessness with his adorable teddy bears. You may learn a little about knitting (actually more about the process of knitting), but what you will learn and be inspired by is his insistence in not remaining in a dark space facing personal challenges and the challenges currently going on in the world around us. Every post I read from him humbles me, makes me grateful, and makes me try harder to be a better person in this world.

Are you a history nut or love adventure stories and/or biographies. Books can inspire us on many levels; to write, to travel, to be braver in our own lives. One book I just finished that did all three for me is Beyond the Call by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield. Many times the heroes of the world live quiet and unassuming lives. One of these men was Robert Trimble, a world war 2 fighter pilot. While he had an outstanding flying career during the war, the story of the lives he saved in Poland once the camps were liberated by the Red Army, and from right under the ever watchful eyes of the Russians is nothing short of amazing. His family knew very little of his efforts, but as an old man he told his son the story of his covert mission, and Beyond the Call is the book that resulted.  Like the Boys in the Boat, I learned about a wonderful man and hero to many, but also so much more about WW2, our relationship with Russia and an appreciation for what former prisoners endured after their release. While I have an interest in world war 2 history and Poland in particular, you don’t need either to enjoy and be amazed by this man’s story.

Afternoon Visitor

Hello everyone and happy Tuesday!

I have so many topics I want to discuss with you in upcoming posts, but first I want to revisit my last post where I suggested that changing your physical space might help to remove blocks in your life and foster creativity and productivity. Did anyone give this a try? If you did, let us know what you discovered by shaking up the energy in your space.

Lest you think I might not practice what I preach, I made a good start on making over one of my rooms this weekend. I decided to start in my bedroom since it was one of those sad rooms I previously talked about, and I haven’t really paid much attention to it since unpacking my clothes and organizing my closets. Most of us don’t use our bedroom for projects or work, but I believe it is important to create a calm and relaxing space in which to sleep and restore so we don’t drag through our days lacking energy from poor sleep.

My room was crying for some color, some artwork and better flow. So the first thing I did was treat myself to a new comforter set and some new pillows so my bed would look fluffy and welcoming. Then I spent Sunday rearranging my furniture. I felt that my bedroom, while large, had no flow and things just weren’t in the right spots. Doing some online research on some feng shui websites and Houzz, I moved everything into better spots, put my new comforter on and created some softer light. All I can say is wow. I kept walking into my bedroom just to enjoy how different and welcoming it looked! I still have art to hang and perhaps a rug or two for the floors. But now it is a room I feel happy in. And slept much better in! For someone who struggles with being a poor sleeper, this was a pleasant surprise. And of course it has made me realize I need to move along with the rest of my house a little at a time until I am happy walking into all areas of my home and feel like they encourage me and help me to be energetic and creative.

I didn’t have to spend very much money and just a Sunday afternoon to make my room look  and feel completely different.
So if you are hesitating about diving in and changing some things around your house, I highly recommend doing just that. Move one lamp or table, change the color of the throw on your sofa. See how even a little change can have a big impact!

So an interesting event happened as I was working on this post that I want to share with you. As I was typing, I happened to look out my window and was treated to a deer walking through my backyard. Now deer is my spirit animal, so I don’t ever take these visits lightly, and while I am sure they wander through my yard at night, I don’t see them as often during the daylight hours.   Amongst other gifts, deer bring an awareness of the inner child, of sensitivity and intuition and the beginning of new adventures. When deer appears I know it is a sign to trust my instincts.
My very next post was going to be about remembering and reconnecting with the enthusiasm for trying new things and being able to live more lightly as we did when we were children. I guess my visitor is here to support me in my endeavors and for that I am very grateful. She is now resting under some trees further back in my yard where I like to think she is watching out for me. Here is a photo of her that I think you will like.

deer for wordpress

So remember everyone, be aware of what goes on around you. What are the small and not so small messages appearing to you. Give them there due, and see what wisdom they bring.

Take a Look Around. Is Your Space Blocking your Creativity?

There are many ways in which we block ourselves from pursuing our dreams and passions. Engaging and sustaining our true selves takes work. Most of my suggestions are for ideas we can do mentally and spiritually to get past fear and other dream inhibiting thought processes. Right now though, I want to talk a little about the physical space where you work and/or live.

Yesterday I made banana bread. I used my Mom’s recipe and it came out great. I will share it with you at the end of this post. It is really very easy and my Mom had one “must do” that I think keeps this bread moist and flavorful. After I put the breads in the oven to bake, I looked around at the mess I had made which was substantial. Now I am usually a very neat cook and baker. By the time something goes in the oven or is simmering on the stove I usually don’t have much clean up. I pondered this as I loaded the dishwasher and tidied up and came to the conclusion that my kitchen isn’t quite finished. It needs some tweaking or fine tuning. Yes, it is done in the sense that it is brand new and has great cupboard space and brand new appliances and everything else. But I have yet to make it my own space in the sense of effortlessly moving through recipes and having everything in its easiest and most accessible spot.

Having been in my house now for about 3 months, I am what you could call unpacked and moved in. The reality is that it does take time to make a house a home and a reflection of the people who live there, and while I am happy with some rooms, I still have a ways to go. Outside I’ve planted pots of flowers and filled my big window box, but have been watching the yard to see what comes up and how the sun shifts during the year. Next year I will start creating a garden for the birds and butterflies (and chipmunks!)

My home feels like a space where parts of it have only  half come together. I have just sort of been sitting with things the way they are , believing that decorating and a more pulled together look will happen in time. The problem with this is that I seem to be having all these creative ideas I want to pursue, but much of my space is not yet fostering and furthering the process for me. I am lately realizing that I am a little backwards in my thinking and this has been holding me and my project ideas hostage. My ideas are not going to bloom unless my surroundings reflect who I am and provide the type of space that I need to foster new directions in my life.

While I know folks who are in new spaces, not everyone is starting from scratch like me. Still, take a look around your house, your studio, your kitchen. Do you have a favorite spot for the activities you pursue, or do you constantly move around trying to get comfortable and settled? What in your physical space doesn’t flow and augment your life? Do you need different colors, more art, more storage, less stuff?  Do you ever walk into a room and it just seems sad or a bit neglected?  Certainly adding some new life to rooms has to be good for us. Even if we just feel happier walking into them we will create more positive energy in our home and the world.

If you need inspiration pick up a magazine or two. Visit some home decor places or shops that you find inspiring. If you like perusing online definitely take a look at http://www.houzz.com .  You can see photos of all sorts of renovated rooms here and can even request photos with certain colors, styles, or size of room. I recently looked at a magazine showing personal work spaces created by women. These were serious and incredible spaces and beautifully photographed. And while your room(s) may not need a complete redo, sometimes simply moving a piece of furniture or adding some new art or new pillows on a chair can do it. Fresh flowers can be powerful in their color and scent. If you have a garden now is the time to take some cuttings and let them bring freshness and color into your home. I love geraniums and sometimes just pick a few leaves to crush as the scent is always soothing to me. Even a good cleaning can change the energy in a room; open a window and clear out the dust bunnies. See if that doesn’t let some inspiration come scampering out from the recesses of your mind.

I have decided to become more proactive in creating  more workable  and happier rooms for myself and fine tweaking a few others. I hope that you too will take a look around your home and/or work space and try even a few small changes that might make things flow easier. In order to make changes in our lives we are working at cleaning out the clutter from our brains and getting rid of negativity and patterns that don’t work. Doing the same with our surroundings is going to help that process! Let me know how it goes!

Now here is that banana bread recipe.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular milk with a few drops of vinegar)
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
2 cups sifted flour
3 large ripe bananas (mashed lumpy)

Mix in the order given. Pour mixture into 2 small loaf pans that have been greased and floured.
Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees.

The key to this recipe is to mash the bananas with a fork instead of with the electric mixer. I have even used a potato masher. Then just fold them gently into the other ingredients.

Hug a Tree, Hug a Friend, Hug a Stranger, Hug Yourself

This isn’t the post I was planning on writing today. But these are the words that are flowing out of me,  so I am honoring that.

This is a world in trouble; the physical world, the animal world, the plant world and the human world. I’m not here to re-hash recent events, talk politics or special interest groups. There are plenty of places and sites you can find for that.

I’m here, in the spirit of this blog, to encourage us to pay attention to how we impact
and influence the world every day with even our smallest actions. Each day the actions we choose spread either positive and peaceful energy, or negative and dark waves, into the world. It can be almost paralyzing if we think of all the changes we would like to see in the world and ourselves. But break that down into smaller units and amounts of time and see if that creates space and possibility in your mind. Look at yourself, or anyone who is competent and successful in the field they work in. It mostly likely didn’t happen overnight. Sometimes when we see an established and successful business or volunteer organization it is easy to forget the hard work and dedication that went into its creation.

So just how can we all be more productive, positive and help change the world and ourselves
at the same time.

When it comes to something you can do to help the world in a hands on way, learn to choose your battles. What upsets you most about the world. Homelessness, hunger, violence, animal abuse, inadequate education. Pick one. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them all. But you will be more effective if you start with one. Volunteer a couple of hours a week. Can you teach something to abused women learning to be on their own? Do you have a way with animals that have been abused? Volunteer organizations often need people who can write, photograph, or are effective fundraisers. There are numerous organizations that can help us help the world. This is something you can do in order to feel like you are making a difference and will help you feel like you are part of something bigger than just yourself. You will be rewarded with smiles and wagging tails and I guarantee that will make your day.  Along with helping people or animals, you will also meet some great like-minded people. Volunteer vacations are also becoming quite popular.  I think that would be a fantastic way to spend a week.  You could see a different country or state, meet local folks and be of service also.

So how does the way we go through our days have an impact on the world?  I believe that the anger and violence in the world affects us by creating negativity and a non peaceful state in our minds. Our minds become closed and ideas and possibilities that pop into our heads are greeted with negativity and squashed before they have a chance to grow.  We are wrapped in defeat and feeling ineffective before the first step is taken.

Here are a few ideas to help you get into a more peaceful place. Once there it is easier to start helping ourselves and our world.

I am a big proponent of meditation. There is a big block for most of us because we are so concerned if we are meditating correctly or fear we can’t sit long enough. So my suggestion is try this: Set your timer for 5 minutes, get comfortable, close your eyes and silently repeat a word or phrase that speaks of loving kindness and compassion. There, you have just done a short meditation and put some positive energy out into the world and also your own mind.
There are many different types of meditation if you are interested in creating your own practice. One book I like a lot and is a good place to start is “Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. It is a light and non-esoteric and leads the reader gently through all the parts and tools of meditation. I also like the Insight Meditation Center in California which you can find at http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org. You can stream many, many talks about meditation here. I find that talks by Gil Fronsdale resonate with me, but there are several speakers to choose from. You can find everything from 5 minute practice notes to longer guides to meditation.

Writing often helps me settle my mind. Getting thoughts down on paper gets them out of endless circling in my mind. I keep a couple of notebooks close by, using one just  for rambling and the other for any and all ideas. Writing doesn’t have to be for any special purpose other than your own enjoyment. One book I really enjoy and use all the time for writing is “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the writer within” by Natalie Goldberg. A long time Zen practitioner, Ms. Goldberg will help you get the block out of your mind that prevent you from putting pen to paper in her unique way.  Writing can help you find clarity in your mind, creating space that allows growth and change which is a benefit to you and the world around you.

I hope these suggestion may inspire you to try them or lead you to something that helps you stay peaceful in the world and believe that  it is a good world that we need to help heal.

In finishing I go back to the title of this post.

Hug a tree….make better friends with the earth. Touch a tree, a plant, a rock. Say thank you for their beauty and soundness.  I have many beautiful huge trees in my yard, but there is one I feel  most connected to. Sometime I  just sit under if for a while, my back leaning against it.  It lends its strength to me and I am thankful.

Hug a friend…our friends and family are so necessary in so many ways. Let them know how much them mean to you.  If they live far away, write them a letter.  We don’t do that often enough any more.  But there is something special in todays electronic world about getting a card or hand written letter in the mail.  Be creative and make a card!

Hug a stranger…or at least smile and say hi and make some small talk. You may give them a reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  We have been taught not to trust anyone anymore and that is so distressing to me.  Offer to help someone load up their car or carry something into the post office if they  are struggling.  We all need each other.

Hug yourself…take good care of yourself. You need you and the world needs you. Be kind to yourself.  “Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light”! Yogi Bhajan

Thank you all for being a part of my life.

Namaste