Sunday, March 22, 2015

Let Karma handle it

Ever have one of those days when things suck because of someone else?  Maybe someone cut you off in traffic, or took a parking spot you were patiently waiting on. Perhaps someone embarrassed you to make themselves feel powerful or undermined something you did for their own benefit. Did they lie to look good and try to make you look bad? Convince you that you needed to do something where you'd be screwed but they would benefit?

Happens all the time. We're human and we are, all of us, imperfect. Many of us try to walk the high road no matter how often we think it would be easier to walk on a lower path. We are honest and we really do make every effort to do the right thing, only to wind up being hurt or harmed just the same. It isn't easy to turn the other cheek over and over and over without wondering when you can run out of cheeks and just hit back. We worry about what's going to happen next - how much more can we take?

I'm very much one of those "just in case" kinda people. I develop a false sense of security that if I can somehow plan for all possible outcomes, I'll be ready for anything. Truth is, what often happens is never as bad as anything I planned for, and, I waste energy worrying over things that don't come to fruition. I can also never plan for all possible outcomes - especially when other people, weather or animals are involved. Still I keep trying and keep wasting energy.

When I'm wasting that energy trying to control the universe, I'm taking myself away from the good stuff. I'm not 100% present in my life, because I'm squinting at a crystal ball waiting for something to make sense. When I'm not present, I'm missing out...on nature, on people, on peace. A resolution I always have on the tip of my tongue is "be present". Try to focus on now. And when I do it -- WOW! It is generally awesome. Tasks are completed faster and better. I have a higher energy level because I'm not wasting energy worrying over every little thing. I'm happy to be experiencing life with the people I want to be with instead of being locked away in my own head.

Underneath all the over planning and worrying, I want to believe that Karma has my back. At some point, what people get for their behavior is what they deserve. The payback is not always super dramatic or negative. I believe that Karma can be doled out in positive chunks. In Buddhism, Karma is viewed as the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. Really, a person's destiny. Do good now and hopefully good will come back to you. Do bad now and hopefully you will be "rewarded".

It's a tough line to walk. Wishing bad things on others. It's reality - at least for me. I do it. I try not to be specific. In my mind (and sometimes out loud) I just wish that people get what they deserve.  I'm also very well aware that I am on the receiving end. I know it and I try to keep things balanced.

Letting things go isn't easy, but it's necessary. It is difficult to think clearly when we clutter our minds with worry and negativity. When we miss too much because we're so busy waiting for something else - we lose. If you think you can't let go for a minute -- I say to you -- do it. You'll be glad you did and Karma will be there to back you up.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Joy Dare

A few years ago I happened upon some writings by Ann Voskamp.  She creates Christian writings with a focus on the health of the soul.  I liked her writing style - simple, reflective, easy to relate to.

One of her books, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, struck a chord with me.  She maps out the entire year, and on each day, invites you to look for gifts/joys/blessings.  To help, she provides a guide for that day.  If you complete each day's gifts, you'll have 1,000 listed -- 1,000 blessings right there in front of you.  I've done it for a few days here and there and found it a wonderful way to stop complaining and really look at how many things are good in my life.

This year, I wanted to do the Joy Dare for an entire month.  I invited my cousin Richard to join me.  He is very spiritual and is a great writer - I also believed he would enjoy the process.  He invited his friend (and my new friend) Mariann to join in.  Each day or so, they both shared the joys they found, and I learned much about each of them and was so thankful they embraced the task.

While an excellent tool to use for reflection and being thankful, this isn't always easy.  Sometimes, I know I've had to really sit and think about where a particular blessing is.

Instead of sharing mine each day, I saved them up to share in a blog post.  I've chosen 7 of the Joy Dares from February to share here.  There were a couple of days I missed, and when I tried to go back, I couldn' my assignment is not actually complete.  Sometimes I really reached and searched while other times I just went with my first thoughts.

3 gifts red
1) My car – The official color is Ruby Red.  It was the first brand new car I ever bought back in July 2008 and I love it still.  90,000+ miles and going strong
2) Cardinals – my grandmother, Mimi, loved to see cardinals, especially in the winter.  Whenever I see one, I feel her in my heart
3) New Balance Shoe Box – there’s a red New Balance shoe box in our living room – one of 5 boxes on the floor for the cats.  One of the cats, Winnie, most especially loves this box.  She plays in it, chews on it, falls asleep in it and sometimes I feed her in it.  Winnie has a neurological condition which affects her balance and this box helps her feel safe.

3 gifts found in writing
1) Daily Devotional - I subscribe to a daily email written by pastors and retired pastors of the United Church of Christ.  Each email begins with a Bible passage followed by an application of the words into real life.  That was one of the things that really turned me onto the UCC – helping me to apply faith to real life.
2) Joy Dare – I suggested doing this to my cousin Richard.  He agreed and invited his friend, Mariann to join in.  Now the three of us are tracking our blessings and I have made a new friend.  I am learning so much about both of them through their joys and reminding myself of all that I have.
3) Diane’s Kugel - My husband’s Aunt Diane shared a recipe with me.  She could very easily have sent it via email or through Facebook.  Instead, she wrote it on a recipe card and sent it tucked inside a lovely note.  I will cherish both always.

A gift stitched, hammered, woven
1) Stitched – In our living room we have a lap quilt.  It was made by the mother of a former co-worker and I won it in an auction at work.  It fits the room perfectly and it always reminds me of the gift of giving.  Someone made this then handed it off to be auctioned without ever knowing where it would end up.  So much work to help raise money for those less fortunate.
2) Hammered – Inside of the entertainment center in the living room is a small shelf.  My dad built it to add some space.  The TV sits on top of the shelf and the components go beneath it.  When I looked for an entertainment center, I wanted one that closed up and when you look at it, you have no idea what it contains – which means all components needed to be hidden inside.  Mission accomplished.
3) Woven – Leggings for Life.  This group is made up of volunteers who knit or crochet leggings for animals who suffer from limb deformity or paralysis, and who can benefit from having their limbs protected.  I was recently matched with a Pug named Buddy who uses a walker and needs some leggings.  I pray that what I create can help his little legs feel more comfortable.  I am so excited to make something like this and hope Buddy doesn't mind being my test case.

3 gifts found outside
1) Sunrises and Sunsets – every light show is amazing.  I am blessed to see so many beautiful sunrises on my way to work.  Each is different and spectacular and amazing.  I don’t see as many sunsets, but I generally chat with my mom during my afternoon commute and she has a wonderful sunset view…and she always shares how beautiful it is with me.
2) Winter Smells – I make no secret of the fact that spring and summer are where it’s at for me – winter and fall just don’t cut it.  I do, however, tolerate both seasons because of how good they smell.  Winter smells are crisp and clean with wood fire attached.  Toss in some pine and it’s perfect.
3) Snow for snowshoeing – Brad gave me snowshoes a couple years ago, knowing I’d really like using them to help make peace with the winter.  And he was right.  The right snow makes for a terrific outdoor workout and I almost find myself looking forward to the right snow falling.

3 ways you feel the love of God
1) I feel it when I wake up and know I got through the night & have the day in front of me to experience all the gifts I have and those others will share.
2) I see it in the hearts and actions of those who love and care for animals.  It’s not about glory or money or anything other than saving and loving.
3) I hear it the stories of those who do for others.  We are inundated with bad news every day, but the good news still finds a way to restore our faith.

A gift of tin, glass, wood
1) Tin – the sound of rain on a tin roof.  I have not often experienced this, but when I have, I have found it to be a peaceful sound.
2) Glass – pieces of Belleek my mother and godmother have given to me – I’m looking at them right now and they make me smile
3) Wood – the first Pinterest project my husband and I did – we made little trays from old sanded & painted palettes.  Brad searched for and picked up the palettes, measured and cut them, then helped me assemble.

3 gifts in shadows
1) Wiper blades – one of my windshield wiper blades broke yesterday, during a blizzard.  When things were quieter last night, my husband went out and bought a new one for me.  Today, without success, I tried to attach it.  I could not figure it out.  So when he came home, we stood together in the dark and the sub-zero temperatures while I held the flashlight and he attached the wiper blade.
2) Cats in the dark – each night as I get ready for bed, my cats sit outside the bathroom door and wait on me.  One of them wants a goodnight snuggle (and a little treat) while the other one sleeps with me and goes to bed when I do.  I have learned to step carefully in the dark and to try to adjust to the lack of light quickly so I can spot them and not kick anyone. 
3) “Downton Abbey” in the den – We generally watch TV together in our living room., but when I’m home alone, I love to curl up in a little den we have and watch TV there.  For some reason, it seems the perfect room for Downton.  I am remarkably lucky to have more than one place to relax.

There are blessings and joys and good news all around us.  Some days, it can be hard to find.  Either we aren't open to anything or we don't have the energy or we just feel like focusing on the not so good.  The key, for me anyway, is balance.  I let myself get wrapped up in what isn't nice and isn't making me happy - then I remind myself that I'm wasting energy and missing the good stuff.  

Take the Joy Dare for a day or a week or a year.  If you think you can't do it - I say to you - open your eyes, heart, and mind -- you are surrounded by blessings.